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In gallery-sales pitches and online listicle articles naming African artists to watch and collect, "important" has become a popular prefix to the word "artist". But since the rush to name the hottest contemporary African artist took hold from around the late 1990s, museums have been crippled by poor budgets, biennales have ended and the commercial art scene and fairs have gained strength. Another shift is coming on February 17 when the first auction dedicated to contemporary African art will be held in Cape Town. This landmark moment has been organised by Strauss & Co, SA’s largest and inarguably most important auction house. The value of contemporary African art has so far not been determined at auctions — commercial galleries have become the leading authority. It has become less easy to discover the actual cost of artworks as many larger galleries no longer have price lists available, leading to the suspicion that it fluctuates according the size of the buyer’s pocket. An auction ...

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