10 African Artists You Should Absolutely Know

Enfant Précoce, La lutte, portrait de famille, 2017, available on Artsper

The long-deserved appreciation for African art and artists in the West increased rapidly after the 1989 exhibition, Les magiciens de la terre (“The magicians of the Earth”) at the Centre Pompidou. Since the early 1990s, Africa has witnessed a period of creative flourishing, as more and more international galleries open their doors to African exhibitions worldwide. As the continent blooms the art scene does too, increasingly abundant in art markets and institutions across the globe. Artsper takes you on a virtual journey through this magical continent to discover 10 African artists, both famous and emerging, who have taken the African contemporary art scene by storm.

1. Wangechi Mutu

Wangechi Mutu - Cactus Green Nips (2009)
Wangechi Mutu, Cactus Green Nips, 2009

Although currently based in New York, Kenyan artist Wangechi Mutu, produces artworks that are simultaneously shocking and captivating. Belonging to the Afro-futurist movement, she mixes African cultural references with elements of science fiction to create both disturbing and intriguing characters.

2. El Anatsui

El Anatsui - Strips of Earth's Skin (2008)
El Anatsui, Strips of Earth’s Skin, 2008

Ghanaian sculptor El Anatsui grew to international fame by transforming thousands of bottle caps into gigantic luminous structures, which he used to cover walls of various institutions across Europe including the Arsenale in Venice and the Alte National Gallery in Berlin.

3. Thandiwe Muriu

Thandiwe Muriu, Child’s Play, 2019, available on Artsper

Up-and-coming Kenyan photographer Thandiwe Muriu‘s photographs are a gorgeous and original blend of traditional African patterns and haute couture. While her images could be taken straight out of an issue of Vogue, it is these patterns, use of black models and natural afro hairstyles that stunningly celebrate African and black culture.

4. William Kentridge

William Kentridge - The hope in the charcoal cloud (2014)
William Kentridge, The hope in the charcoal cloud, 2014

Originally from South Africa, artist William Kentridge is best known for his charcoal drawings. Influenced by the harsh history of a country crushed by apartheid, his works are politically and emotionally charged.

5. Julie Mehretu

Julie Mehretu peignant
Julie Mehretu painting

American-Ethiopian artist Julie Mehretu is represented by the Marian Goodman Gallery in London. Known for her very large (and very expensive) paintings, Mehretu won the prestigious MacArthur Prize and her works form a part of the MoMA’s permanent collection.

6. Chéri Samba

Cheri Samba - J'aime bien son dos (2011) african artists
Chéri Samba, J’aime bien son dos, 2011

Congolese painter Chéri Samba is one of the most famous artists to come out of Congo. His figurative and colorful works can be seen in both the Centre Pompidou and MoMA, exploring and satirizing daily life in Congo through his impressive cartoon style.

7. Hassan Hajjaj

Hassan Hajjaj, Riffy Stylin’, 2016, available on Artsper

Moroccan artist Hassan Hajjaj has earned international fame, and is often thought of as the country’s answer to Andy Warhol. Hajjaj’s most famous work is his photography inspired by Pop Art, fashion, and Malian portrait photographer Malick Sidibe. These photographs center around bright colors, pattern and turning framing into an art form.

8. Enfant Précoce

Enfant Précoce, Un bon marabout wallaye, 2017, available on Artsper

An emerging Cameroonian artist, the self-taught Enfant Précoce, or Francis Essoua Kalu, creates colorful, busy and vibrant scenes of people, nature, and fantastical beings. Rather than his works being charged with political or social commentary, the artist prefers that the spectator enter their own realm of fantasy and imagination to appreciate them.

9. Ntombephi Ntobela

Ntombephi african artists
Ntombephi Ntobela, The President, 2019, available on Artsper

This South African artist, also known as Induna, is the leader of the Ubuhle collective, a collective of 4 female artists who create paintings using embroidered beads, a revolutionary group for African women in art. Her colorful and highly intricate designs have made her an artist highly sought after by galleries and private collectors alike.

10. Rafiy Okefolahan

Rafiy african artists
Rafiy Okefolahan, Sans Titre, 2020, available on Artsper

This artist from Benin has worked in several countries across West Africa including Togo, Senegal and Nigeria. His paintings use symbols, faces and signs to honor the cultural traditions of these countries, as well as making commentary on current events and what he calls “the noise of everyday life”.

The Rise of African Artists

Whether they have already achieved international success or are currently breaking out onto the scene, these 10 African artists’ stunning creations will only bring more and more highly deserved recognition to African art on an international scope. Artsper can’t wait to see what comes next from them!

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