Watch and Listen
1. Watch the video. Circle the correct answer.
1 Which statement best describes the contemporary African art market?
a It covers a wide range of media types.
b It has been very popular for over ten years.
c It is expensive compared to other art markets.
2 Why did Sotheby’s decide to have a contemporary African art auction?
a African art is more profitable than art from other countries.
b There is no place for these works of art in their other auctions.
c There is a growing interest among museums and private buyers.
3 What is the best description of El Anatsui’s work?
a a mix of traditional and modern themes
b the most popular of the African art works
c a continuation of his father’s work
2. Watch again. Use the words in the box to complete the summary.
demand an auction collectors
discarded contemporary media
Sotheby’s has great confidence in the 1__________ African Art market. More and more museums and private 2__________ want to buy these works. In response to this 3__________, Sotheby’s held 4__________ of 80 works by 60 different African artists. These works of art cover a wide range of 5__________, including paintings, sculpture, photography and textiles. The sale was a great success. The most expensive piece, a painting by Irma Stein, sold for £728,750. A textile work by the Ghanaian artist, El Anastui, made from 6__________ bottle caps and cans, sold for almost half a million pounds.
1 a 2 c 3 a
1 contemporary 2 collectors 3 demand 4 an auction
5 media 6 discarded
Contemporary African art sale
Narrator: The African art market is heating up, as more and more art lovers have begun to collect African art. In 2017, the auction house Sotheby’s held a modern and contemporary African art sale for the first time, with 80 works from 60 artists from 14 countries. Probably the most well-known of these artists is El Anatsui. He was born in Ghana but works primarily in Nigeria, where he creates stunning textiles from bottle caps and old aluminium cans. This work sold for £416,750 at the Sotheby’s sale.
The work of South African artist, Irma Stein, whose paintings have lately sold for millions of dollars, was also represented. Her 1942 painting, Sunflowers, went for £728,750.
Yinka Shonabare was born in Britain but grew up in Nigeria. His work explores issues of race and class across a wide range of media, including textiles, sculpture, painting and photography. This sculpture, Crash Willy, fetched £224,750 at the Sotheby’s auction. Heather O’Leary, head of Modern and Contemporary Art at Sotheby’s, explains the motivation behind the sale.
Heather O’Leary: Sotheby’s has really been watching this market grow over the last few years. It’s still quite a young market, but in the last five to ten years we’ve seen phenomenal growth and that’s really a combination of erm … African buyers erm … collecting art, also museums collecting art from Africa and there have been auction houses erm … both here in Europe and in Africa who have been … who have started new sales where they offer art from Africa.
In this auction, for example, I think we have three artists who sell in our contemporary art auctions, but we have over sixty, we have sixty artists here that don’t, so erm … there was a real need for … for an auction in which to place them and … and we know that there’s a demand from the market as well.
The lowest erm … estimate in the sales start at £1000 and the … even the most expensive piece in the same is valued at less than £1,000,000 and so I do think there are great opportunities while the market is young to … to really start collecting in this field in a serious way.
Narrator: O’Leary describes the work of El Anatsui:
Heather O’Leary: The initial inspiration for these pieces was the traditional kante cloth from Ghana. His father was a … a master weaver of kante cloth and so you can see here that, erm … he’s used the colour of Ghana, the yellow and the red of … that appear in the Ghanaian flag and the black erm … and … and then also the silver of the aluminium which looks like … like silver from a distance as … as he also uses gold in the same way so he’s taking these discarded objects and creating shimmering, precious metal, sheets of precious metals out of them.
1. Listen to the radio report. Then answer the questions.
1 Where is this piece of graffiti?
a at an art gallery
b on a person’s house
c on an office building
2 What is the reporter trying to learn?
a people’s opinion about the graffiti
b if graffiti art or a crime
c what the laws are regarding graffiti
3 Do these people who are interviewed like the graffiti? Circle yes or no.
a Alex yes no
b office worker yes no
c police officer yes no
d Simone yes no
e Joseph yes no
2. Listen again. Complete the table with the different opinions of each person interviewed.
1 c 2 a 3 a yes b no c yes d yes e yes
Answers will vary. Possible answers:
Alex: interesting to look at; distinctive style; decorates the area
office worker: no right to spray paint their message; art is in a gallery
police officer: creative; expressive; should get permission
Simone: expressive; colour and composition work well; could make a lot of money
Joseph: wishes he’d done it; good way of expressing ideas; communicates a message
Reporter: Hello from the city centre. Overnight, the area’s mystery graffiti artist has struck again. Although the identity of the painter remains unknown, their work is making an impact on the community. This large image has been painted on the side of an office building. A lot of people in the street on their way to work are stopping to look at it. Let’s talk to a few of them and find out what they think of this latest spray-painted image.
Hello, excuse me?
Reporter: I’m reporting on the recent increase in street art in the city centre. Can I ask you a few questions?
Reporter: I’m reporting on the recent increase in street art in the city centre. Can I ask you a few questions?
Reporter: What’s your name?
Alex: It’s Alex.
Reporter: So, Alex, what do you think of this new artistic addition to the neighbourhood?
Alex: This street art? I think it’s great. It’s something interesting to look at, and it looks good, doesn’t it? I live around the corner, so this is on my doorstep.
Reporter: What do you like about it?
Alex: I just think it’s cool – it has a distinctive style. At first glance, it looks like the painting was done in a few minutes. But in fact, it’s not just spray painting; it’s the work of a talented artist. It really decorates the area, and I think the creativity makes a very ugly neighbourhood a lot better looking.
Reporter: Does everyone in the area like it?
Alex: Most of my neighbours do. We think this kind of thing could become a special feature of the sea. It’s a real shame that it’s going to be covered up before many people have had a chance to see it.
Reporter: Covered up?
Alex: The police are going to paint over it soon because street art is illegal.
Reporter: Oh, right. Yes, we’ll come back to that in a minute. Thanks for talking to us.
Alex: No problem.
Reporter: Clearly some people really like the painting. However, there’s also already been some criticism of the piece. Let’s see what more we can find out about this side of the story.
Hello, excuse me?
Office worker: Yes?
Reporter: I’m finding out what people think of street art in this area. Can I ask you a few questions?
Office worker: I’m just on my way into the office, so you’ll have to be quick.
Reporter: What do you think of this painting?
Office worker: I don’t really like it. It’s just graffiti, isn’t it?
Reporter: What do you mean?
Office worker: The people who own this building didn’t ask for this, did they? I mean, what right does this person have to spray paint their message here? If somebody wants to express themselves in this way, they should get permission. I’d be really angry if someone did this in my neighbourhood.
Reporter: Do you think it’s a work of art?
Office worker: No, not at all. Art is an exhibition in an art gallery. This is just somebody spraying paint onto a wall in the middle of the night. Like I said, it’s just self-expression.
Reporter: Yes, I see what you mean. Thanks for taking a minute to talk.
Office worker: You’re welcome.
Reporter: I think it would be a good idea to get a professional view on this now. I have a local police officer with me.
Hello, and thanks for talking to me today.
Police officer: Hello.
Reporter: What’s your view on the latest work of the mystery painter?
Police officer: Well, to be honest, as a piece of art, I actually really like it, despite the fact that it’s illegal. However, I also completely agree with the person you just spoke with. We can’t have this sort of thing. It is vandalism, and it is against the law.
Reporter: It’s against the law?
Police officer: Yes. Vandalism is a crime, because it is intentionally damaging property that belongs to the city or to other people.
Reporter: I’m very interested to hear you call this piece of vandalism a work of art.
Police officer: It is artistic, though, isn’t it? I couldn’t paint that. The person who did this, especially very quickly and at night, is very creative. This painting is really expressive, but I have to stress that it’s illegal, and therefore we’re going to paint over it later today. We remove all graffiti because it’s the law.
Reporter: What would you recommend for people who want to express themselves through street art?
Police officer: My recommendation? Well, if this artist wants to paint where everyone can see that artwork, he or she should get permission. We can work with street artists to create art that people have chosen to have in their community.
Reporter: So you mean you can give someone permission to paint graffiti?
Police officer: Yes, well, sort of. However, they have to apply for a permit and get approval and so on. This makes it a legal activity rather than vandalism.
Reporter: Thanks a lot for talking with us.
Police officer: My pleasure
Reporter: Next, I have an art critic here who agrees with some people about the quality of the latest street painting. This is Simone James, an art gallery owner and art critic. Hello, Simone.
Reporter: Simone, could you comment on the latest creation of our illegal painter?
Simone: Many people think that the painting is just rough spray painting. However, the fact of the matter is the artist has created a very expressive piece of artwork using very basic tools and materials. The colour scheme and the composition work very well together. It’s a strong piece. If this artist were to exhibit and sell their work, I think he or she could make a lot of money.
Reporter: Do you have any idea who the artist might be?
Simone: I have no idea at all, but technically, the work really is very good, so I’d like to find out!
Reporter: Thank you very much. Finally, there’s one more person I’d like to speak with. This is Joseph, who’s 15. Joseph, what do you think of the mystery artist’s latest painting?
Joseph: I wish I’d done it! I think it’s really good.
Reporter: What do you like about it?
Joseph: I think this type of art is a really good way of expressing your ideas. I don’t know who did it, but I guess it’s a young person like me and by doing this kind of art in this way, on the streets, the artist is communicating a message about how young people feel.
Reporter: OK, thanks, Joseph. So we’ve had a full range of responses to the latest street art in the city centre. However, the true identity of the graffiti painter remains a mystery.
1. Listen to the informal debate. Take notes on the participants and their opinions.
2. Tick (✓) the opinions mentioned in the discussion. Use your notes from Exercise 1 to help you.
1 Maintaining the sculpture costs too much money.
2 Public buildings could be sold instead of the sculpture.
3 Art is an important part of any culture.
4 Removing public art could cause big problems in the city.
5 The sculpture is a safety concern.
6 Public art could become a tourist attraction.
7 A private donation has been made that will pay for a leisure centre.
8 A balance needs to exist between leisure activities and public art.
3. Listen to the debate again and complete the notes.
Statement 1: Public art is a waste of money.
Response 1.1: Art is an important part of any culture.
Response 1.2: Art can have a very positive effect on people.
Response 1.3: We don’t know if we can sell the sculpture.
Decision 1: We need to find out 1___________ and get an art expert to 2___________.
Statement 2: If we don’t commission public art, we need to put something in its place.
Response 2.1: Build the leisure centre instead.
Response 2.2: We’d need to 3___________.
Decision 2: Let’s put together 4___________.
Statement 3: The public art causes a public safety issue.
Response 3.1: I wonder if it’s 6___________ that’s the problem
Response 3.2: Moving it might solve the problem. It is just costing us money for repairs.
Decision 3: We should consider moving the sculpture to 7___________.
Statement 4: What if the city does not commission more art or build the leisure centre?
Response 4.1: The money would be put back into the budget, and we’d have to 8___________.
Response 4.2: Our children need to 9___________. We need to balance art and leisure in the lives of our children.
Decision 4: We need to 10___________ in more detail.
Answers will vary. Possible answers:
Robert: they need to find out how much new art would cost; thinks Sandra is right; they need to do more research
Bilal: not really sure that paying for art is an appropriate way to spend public money; the art doesn’t really benefit the city’s population; more people would use and benefit from a leisure centre; public art is a waste of money
Ahmad: art is an important part of any culture; art can help make us proud of our city; people enjoy looking at it; the location of the artwork rather than the artwork itself is the problem; moving it might solve the vandalism problem; children need to see art in public places; balance investment in leisure activities and public art
Azra: art can have a very positive eﬀect on people
Sandra: not sure a leisure centre would be popular enough; consider moving the sculpture; could be a tourist attraction
Claudia: public safety issue; artwork really is causing more problems than it’s worth
Tick: 1, 3, 5, 6, 8
1 how much new art will cost
2 analyze the pieces we have
3 gather data and opinions
4 a survey
5 climb on it and write graffiti on it
6 the location
7 a diﬀerent location
8 choose / determine a new project
9 see art in public places
10 explore options
Robert: … Okay everyone, are we ready to get back to business? The next item to look at today is the proposed budget to continue paying for public art in City Park. We’ve recently had to spend a lot of money repairing and restoring the sculpture we commissioned last year because vandals have broken parts of it. We’ve also spent a lot of time and money removing graffiti from it. The council finance office has confirmed that the total bill for cleaning and repairs has come to more than £7,000 so far this year. There’s been a proposal that we sell the sculpture, stop paying for new public art and use the money to pay for a new leisure centre. Would anyone like to comment on this?
Bilal: Yes, Robert, I’d like to say something.
Robert: OK, Bilal. Go ahead.
Bilal: Personally, I’m not really sure that paying for art is an appropriate way to spend public money.
We assume that we should invest in art since so many other parks have art but, in reality, it’s costing us a lot of money, and the art doesn’t really benefit the city’s population. A lot of people simply don’t appreciate or like to interpret art. The truth of the matter is, more people would use and benefit from a leisure centre.
Robert: If I understand you correctly, Bilal, you’re saying that we shouldn’t spend more money commissioning art?
Bilal: Well, yes. I think public art is a waste of money.
Robert: I see. Yes, Ahmad, would you like to add something?
Ahmad: Yes, thank you, Robert. I see what you mean, Bilal, and I’m not an expert, but it’s been said that art, and appreciating art, is an important part of any culture. OK, it’s true that some people say we’re wasting money by commissioning public art, but the fact of the matter is that art is an important part of any culture. Art can help make us proud of our city, and a lot of people really enjoy looking at it. We had 400,000 visitors to our city art gallery and museum last year, so people are interested in it.
Azra: That’s true, Ahmad. Research has demonstrated over and over again that art can have a very positive effect on people.
Robert: Thank you, Ahmad and Azra. Yes, Sandra, you wanted to say something?
Sandra: Ahmad and Azra have good points, but one other thing to remember is that, although many people think that art is worth a lot of money because it’s by famous artists or because the city invested in it, we don’t actually know that the art is worth anything. Look at the sculpture there now, for example. Since it’s been damaged and repaired so much, we don’t know if we can sell the sculpture, even to a private collector. Do we really want to invest in more art?
Robert: OK, thank you all for your comments. I think we need to find out how much new art would cost us. We’ll have to get an art expert to analyze the pieces we already have and like, and maybe we can restore them rather than buy new ones.
Would anyone else like to make a comment?
Azra: If we decide against commissioning further public art, we’ll need to put something in its place.
Bilal: Like building the leisure centre instead.
Sandra: You say that, Bilal, but I’m not sure that would be popular enough. We’d need to talk to a lot of people to gather data and opinions about whether they like the art or if they want a new building, and this might reveal some really good ideas we haven’t thought of.
Robert: Yes, I think you’re right, Sandra. Let’s put together a survey. It can ask about commissioning more art or building a leisure centre. We can also include three or four other ideas on spending public money. Then we can ask people to respond to it. Would anyone like to say anything else? Yes, Claudia?
Claudia: For me, there’s a public safety issue here. The police reports have shown that kids climb on the public art we have there now. This happens almost every night, and they’re breaking it and writing graffiti on it. This artwork really is causing more problems than it’s worth.
Ahmad: You may be right, Claudia, but I wonder if it’s the location of the artwork rather than the artwork itself that’s the problem.
Bilal: In other words, you think we should move it?
Ahmad: I think moving it might solve the vandalism problem. It seems as if the art is just costing us money for cleaning and repairs. If we were to display it in a different spot, we probably wouldn’t have these problems. Plus, we’d still contribute to the culture of the city by having the art available.
Sandra: I agree with Ahmad. I think we could consider moving the sculpture to the front of the council building, or next to the hospital, or possibly even inside the main shopping centre. In fact, the shopping centre has already expressed interest in this because they believe public artwork could be a tourist attraction. If we planned it properly, we could get people to see the artwork and do some shopping at the same time!
Bilal: So, Sandra, what you’re saying is that you’d definitely rather move the current sculpture we have to another location?
Sandra: Yes, that’s right.
Robert: OK, yes, those ideas make sense. I think we need to do more research here. First, we need to focus on identifying some places where future public art could be displayed. We need to reject any places where we feel vandals would be likely to damage it. Second, we need to consider the cost of our current piece of art, the sculpture that is already there in the park.
Sandra: There’s one other point I’d like to raise.
Robert: OK. Go ahead, Sandra.
Sandra: What would we do with the money if we didn’t commission any new art or build the leisure centre?
Robert: That’s a good question. The money would be put back into the budget, and we’d have to determine a project that reflects what people really want.
Ahmad: Well, a leisure centre, or any other centre, is a good thing, but it isn’t art. I think our children need to see art in public places, especially the work of a famous artist, right here in our city. We need to have a balance of investment in leisure activities and public art in the lives of our children.
Robert: OK, I think we need to look into this. We need to explore our options in more detail. Are there any other comments on this topic? No? OK. We’ll move on, then …
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