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Art Market

Market Brief: Behind Prince Gyasi’s Rapid Rise in the Art Market and Beyond

Kaylie Felsberg
Aug 13, 2021 9:43PM
Prince Gyasi
True Vine , ca. 2020
Nil Gallery

The latest

Collector interest in Prince Gyasi’s radiant photographs has surged on Artsy this past week, with the number of collectors who followed the emerging Ghanaian artist on the platform more than quadrupling week on week. Gyasi, the 26-year-old artist who primarily shoots on an iPhone, is making waves in the art world for his joyous, hyper-chromatic compositions of marginalized individuals from Accra, his home city. The subjects and everyday scenes he captures are often offset by vivid, digitally-altered backgrounds, offering a vibrant counter-narrative to outsiders’ depictions of life in West Africa. This week’s uptick in followers reflects the more widespread demand for Gyasi’s electric photographs.


Key figures

  • Gyasi’s decade-long career has been marked by astronomic surges in visibility. The self-taught artist began practicing photography in 2011 and, in 2017, he was chosen as a contributing creative director for a collaborative campaign by Puma and the Amsterdam-based fashion label Daily Paper.
  • In 2018, Gyasi joined Paris-based Nil Gallery’s artist roster and had, as he put it, his first major “stepping-stone” when he photographed his close friend, the British actor Michaela Coel, alongside entrepreneur Nana Kwasi Wiafe. Originally posted to Instagram, the summery image—in which Coel and Wiafe are wearing earrings hooked with oranges and framed against a white-and-blue striped tent—brought the artist’s work to the attention of a wider audience.
  • That same year, Nil Gallery exhibited Gyasi’s color-saturated photographs as part of its presentation at the PULSE Contemporary Art Fair in Miami Beach. The gallery sold a total of five works by the artist, for undisclosed prices. Collectors’ interest in Gyasi’s images skyrocketed from there.
  • In 2019, Apple commissioned him to create (in video form) a tribute to the iconic Art Kane image A Great Day in Harlem (1958). The resulting series, “A Great Day in Accra,” was filmed on location in the capital’s Independence Square and paid tribute to the Ghanaian music genre Hiplife. In 2020, Gyasi was commissioned to photograph the Nigerian musician Burna Boy, in the artist’s signature color scheme, for the March issue of GQ Magazine.
  • Gyasi’s commercial and editorial projects have coincided with growing demand at art fairs, which has steadily risen over the past three years. In 2020, Nil Gallery included his work in its group presentation at the virtual edition of the 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair (hosted on Artsy), which helped him become the ninth-most inquired upon artist at fairs on Artsy, up from 29th-most in 2019.
  • Thus far in 2021, Gyasi’s photographs offered at fairs on Artsy have had the greatest number of collectors inquiring about them of any artist on the platform, surpassing blue-chip mainstays like David Hockney and George Condo. Despite the frenzied primary-market interest in works by Gyasi, they have yet to be offered at auction.


Takeaway

Prince Gyasi
Protection II, 2020
Nil Gallery
Prince Gyasi
Twins Edition, 2018
Nil Gallery
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Between high-profile collaborations and strong showings at major fairs, it’s likely that Gyasi’s profile will continue to rise as the demand for his work becomes more international. This past February, the artist was featured in the spring and summer collection for fashion mogul Virgil Abloh’s brand Off-White. The live fashion show, which premiered on Abloh’s Imaginary TV platform, showed Gyasi, surrounded by mannequins, dressed in clothes from the new line. The following month, Gyasi photographed supermodel Naomi Campbell for a cover feature in an issue of Madame Figaro, which Campbell guest-edited.

The coming year is shaping up to be among the artist’s busiest in terms of fairs and exhibitions. In November, Gyasi will be a featured artist at Paris Photo, the largest international photography fair. In 2022, he’ll be the lead artist featured at the Kyotographie festival in Japan. Amid all these projects, Gyasi is also the co-founder of the nonprofit Boxed Kids. The Accra-based organization, which he launched in 2017 with his partner, the director Kuukua Eshun, is dedicated to helping provide an education for children in Jamestown, one of the city’s oldest districts.

Explore more works by Prince Gyasi.

Kaylie Felsberg
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Jenna Gribbon, Luncheon on the grass, a recurring dream, 2020. Jenna Gribbon, April studio, parting glance, 2021. Jenna Gribbon, Silver Tongue, 2019