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This dissatisfaction led Giorgis to help organize the 2014 Addis Art Fair earlier this year — an attempt to bring more affordable and diverse art to a broader local market.
Paintings were priced at a maximum of 8,000 birr ($400). During the four-day event 10,000 people — mostly locals — arrived to view 500 paintings and bought 130 of them.
Other attempts to embolden Addis Ababa’s emerging art market include an online map of the city’s art centers. The mapping project was initiated by Goethe-Institut Addis Ababa, a German organization that promotes cultural cooperation.
The institute also works closely with local grass-roots arts communities such as Netsa Art Village, which emphasizes artistic freedom and experimentation.
“This is all part of trying to professionalize [the local market] without losing the flavor,” said the institute’s director, Irmtraut Hubatsch.
The volume of budding artists in the capital means Makush has no trouble securing talent. After artists start selling paintings around the 12,000 birr mark, they sometimes leave and start their own galleries. This creates room for new artists.
Although the emergence of an art market is generally encouraging, Giorgis called for more accountability in the form of art critics, curators, dealers and promoters.
“It’s not to curb the market but to ensure good quality, creativity and experimentation instead of [art] being cocooned,” she said. “I’m glad artists are getting money, but what type of art are they producing?”