SOAS Event Series 1.06 – Rakeb Sile

In conversation with the c0-founder of Addis Fine Art, Rakeb Sile

I started an MA in Global Creative and Cultural Industries at SOAS, University of London in October 2021. As part of one of my practical modules, I decided to research careers in the cultural sector and, alongside fellow student Philipp Schütz, I put on a series of events inviting researchers and practitioners to talk about their careers.

For our third event we invited Rakeb Sile from Addis Fine Art which is the first white-cube gallery space for modern and contemporary art in Ethiopia and one of few black-owned art galleries in London. We were excited to ask Rakeb about running a successful international art business and the sudden widespread appreciation for ‘African Art’.

Here’s What I Learned

I have been resistant to commercial art sector, particularly the hyper-financialisation of contemporary fine art but Rakeb really changed my mind. She rightly explained that African art and artists deserve to benefit as much as their Western counterparts from this lucrative market. And how representation in this market was fundamental to becoming part of the international art canon which is frightfully dominated by Western art. Moreover, she described how Addis Fine Art was working towards sustainable infrastructure and business models that nurture an interest and market for Ethiopian art and its history far beyond the current trend in ‘African Art’.

Rakeb showed me how the commercial arts sector can be harnessed towards positive goals. And coming from a business background, she really demonstrated how business-minded planning and organising can bring focus and long-term thinking to cultural projects. I will think twice now before showing disdain for the commercial art sector.

Event Photography by Philipp Schütz

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