MARKET FILE - AUCTIONS
ED CROSS on Being a Sculptor, African Art and Developments in the ONLINE Market Ed Cross
Rapid advancements in technology and the internet in recent years, has transformed the online art industry. There now exist over 300 online art market players across the world specializing in areas such as data, information research, galleries and auctions. Market reports from IBIS World, estimate online auction sales totaling US $ 287.5 million in 2011 from the United States market alone. The Auction Room adds to the growing list of online auction houses. Sculptor and Cambridge-trained art historian, Ed Cross takes us through some of his experiences in different roles as a sculptor, painter, art dealer and now curator of the auction house’s inaugural sales of modern and contemporary art from Africa on October 18.
OM: How did you become passionate about African art? I have always been an artist in one way or another and I was lucky enough to study History of Art at Cambridge University, though the nearest I got to African art then was through the prism of Cubism. The only connection my family had with Africa was through my grandmother’s first cousin, the bohemian writer, publisher and African art and literature patron, Nancy Cunard who scandalized English society by having a love affair with a black jazz musician and who is said to have introduced Picasso to African art. Part of the reason I went to live in Africa in 1988 was to practice as a painter, leaving my day job in educational publishing at Heinemann in London. In the end, I did have several exhibitions in Mombasa when I first arrived there, but gravitated back into books, setting up my own company
to represent international publishers like Cambridge University Press, in East Africa. I found and still find Africa visually inspiring in many ways. Initially, I was more interested in the “inadvertent art” there - the place is so rich in visual imagery provided by people just going about their lives, always with improvisation. There is a lot of “art” produced for the tourist trade in East Africa and that didn’t interest me at all - it wasn’t until I saw the work of Jack Katarikawe the Ugandan artist who has lived most of his life in Nairobi, and whose work I fell in love with, that I began to see that there was, of course, much more to the art scene in East Africa than mass produced Maasai warriors. I have not looked back since then. OM: You worked as a sculptor before going on to collecting and dealing? Around 2000, I discovered a love of
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sculpture and started producing portrait busts and heads in clay and bronze and at the same time started to develop a body of work using ruined dug-out canoes or fragments of boats as my materials. In the end, I got out of my publishing interests all together to concentrate on my sculpture. In time, this led me in to the world of curating and art dealing. I realized that there was a wealth of talent not being exposed internationally and I felt that the ideas and the spirit behind some of the visual art I was seeing in Africa embodied the values and qualities that make Africa unique as a continent. I also saw an amazing business investment for those who had the foresight. I wanted to be part of what I see as a cultural rebirth, post the ravages of colonialism and tyranny. I was lucky enough to find friends and colleagues who had similar interests and with their support embarked on a journey in