Since Bloomberg reported on the “Black art gold-rush” back in 2018, many African artists have enjoyed a swift boost in popularity. Especially with social media helping people with an internet connection reach the eyes and ears of anyone else with one, the benefits to developing and newly developed nations are easy to see. Crossing borders and hurdling cultural differences, a good piece of art speaks for itself and often sells for more than reasonable prices. When Godwin Champs Namuyimba found repute with his own exquisite talents, something caught fire and the desire to burn bright with his name spread around the artworld.
The rise in popularity for African artists meant that quality spoke louder than experience, and names that so far had not been seen in big exhibitions or selective showcases were able to stand shoulder to shoulder with more well-known creators. A bright future seemed available for so many who had previously been selling work for pedestrian prices to the mainstream. Being whisked away from the high street stall and into the classy and exclusive venues is a dream for many painters and other artists. When a trend takes place and you’ve positioned yourself well, then the odds are in your favour.
With a keen desire to reach some kind of professional standard when it comes to selling art, Namuyimba sought representation and support to raise his game. With an expert understanding of the scene and the way forward for artists in his position, Stjarna Art signed the artist to their books and took care of the process of production and resale. Previously to this arrangement, Namuyimba had worked with a French gallery however during the pandemic he was unable to complete his contract and his visa never materialised for his appearance at the exhibit. If it hadn’t been for Stjarna, Namuyimba may have suffered the same kinds of defeat due to finance and struggle.
During 2020 when Namuyimba’s work first went on sale in auction, his works received good coverage and reached several thousand dollars each. Collectors were very happy to pay decent sums for the so far little-known painter from Uganda. Even with a smudge on his backstory with unkept promises, the community seemed to be able to put it down to the stresses of covid and not the character of the individual. From spending time in a spartan apartment in Uganda with a few pieces of Belgian canvas he’d imported, and very little else, to receiving four and five figure sums for his hard work was a big leap. An advance was provided with a ten-painting deal which gave Namuyimba the tools he needed to thrive.
It didn’t stop there. When he discovered that he was an investment that art collectors saw value in, Namuyimba took his skills to as many beneficiaries as he could. A team of artists had enjoyed his work in the past and he was able to locate one in particular who pushed his financial situation into the next league. Receiving around $450,000 for 25 future works of size and quality, the artist was suddenly free from the constraints of financial dependency. With many conflicting projects that required his complete attention, it seemed that Namuyinba could sit back and get his head down to work.
Rumours of a seedy reputation in his old art scene began to rise, possibly from jealous peers who didn’t meet the standard, and these ultimately ended Namuyimba’s deal with Stjarna Art. It was fairly messy with a booked expo being let down in the process. With the breach of contract in place with third-party investors that gave Namuyimba such a large financial boost, and the unsavoury rumours, the art firm not only cut their ties but changed their history, one client claiming to never have represented the artist but only collaborated with him during 2020.
Perhaps the big take home sense from this artist's journey is that when you come from a community that has less experience in something, it’s easy to get lost and swept up by the forces at play there. We can sometimes get caught by the tide of expectation and eager anticipation offered by well-meaning players in the scene. Even then, we can make mistakes, upset a few people, and still find our way to the top of the mountain. It just takes the courage to keep moving forward.
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From the author of Alternative Fruit
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