Art of Africa: Pavillon 54

Dana Endundo Ferreira, Founder and CEO of Pavillon 54

Art-Tech Startups Conversations. 
One-stop-shop for African Art: Pavillon 54

Even if still the US, China and UK dominate the art markets – largely because these richer countries count more art collectors, Art from Africa is showing a constant increase from year to year, in terms of sales! Museums in Europe and North America hosted shows of African Art in recent years, while art fairs dedicated to the field have sprung up worldwide. When it came to auctions, Sotheby’s online events were quite successful in the Covid period: Modern & Contemporary African Art sold for $2,881,741 and the number of bidders grew by 46% compared with last year. Covid19 seems to have a good effect on art-investments! And how the buyer’s profile looked-like? 27% of buyers were new to Sotheby’s, almost 30% of bidders were under 40 years old, and participants were from 22 different countries.
There was also a development of infrastructures in the last years, that gave a hint about the fact that African Art Market will grow. Museums like Zeitz MOCAA in Cape Town, the Museum of African Contemporary Art in Marrakech, and the Museum of Black Civilizations in Dakar have launched and are nurturing local talents building up their success. In addition to that, successful artists such as Hassan Hajjaj and Ibrahim Mahama, invested in their own institution.
And when it comes to new trends in the market, such as digitalisation, and technology support of sales and professional business mind-set for penetrating the market, there is a prompt answer as well. Art industry is famous for being digital-conservative, with a passion for human connection and face-to-face sales, and reluctance for every technological intervention. Covid19, however, touched a sensitive issue and many galleries, fairs and auctions were forced to go online.
We have met and discussed with Dana Endundo Ferreira, Founder and CEO of Pavillon 54, about digitalisation and her ideas of how the art market can be transformed. With a background in business, marketing and focusing on digital transformation, combining all that with a passion for visual art, Dana is about to launch a new platform. But let’s hear more from her!

Hanna: So, tell me a little bit about Pavillon 54?

Dana Endundo Ferreira: Pavillon 54 is a project started a few months ago, And the aim is to create a one-stop-only global tech platform and community around Modern and Contemporary art from Africa and its diaspora. We want to make Art from Africa a cornerstone of the global art market through increasing artist exposure, investing in education and expanding the collector base.
Basically, what it means is:
A digital platform with a strong online gallery and marketplace where customers and galleries can discover, buy or sell quality artwork
An Educational platform to help users become smarter buyers or collectors
A community where African cultures are shared through regular in-person events and to make sure art is not only bought but also experienced.
Until recently, many players in the art market have been a little reluctant when it comes to digitalization. A lot of people said that art cannot be put online, it needs to be seen in person. But with the Covid crisis going on, everybody was forced to somehow transition online. However, a lot of galleries do not have the tools and knowledge to do so. My background is in marketing and digital and what I always say is that having an online presence doesn’t mean you have a digital strategy. Just putting pictures on a website isn’t a digital strategy. You must consider many components such as your digital marketing, your customer journey & interactions, online security, tracking, measurement, attribution and so on. Online presence is just a small part of it. And, I think that in the medium and long term, only players that truly understand the digital sphere are going to be able to do it properly.

Hanna: Tell us also a little bit about yourself: How did you get into the ‘art world’ and what is your motivation for starting Pavillon 54?
Dana Endundo Ferreira: Firstly, I was born in Congo DRC and I developed a passion for art from a young age thanks to my parents who are collectors and taught me early to value and appreciate our culture and art. I also wanted to be an artist, but I had absolutely no talent! But I was lucky enough to grow up surrendered by beautiful Congolese art.
As I grew up, I started to collect myself and I’ve had the chance over the years, to meet many established and aspiring African artists and collectors. It has always been clear to me that there is immense talent and creativity in Africa, but it wasn’t really valued or talked about. What is usually mostly talked about when it comes to the continent are the negative aspects and rarely the progress, ingenuity, innovation or imagination that contribute to foster great art scene.
And I always wondered how to best bring this forward, to bring the beauty of my cultural heritage to the world.
When I moved to London from NY almost 2 years ago, I knew I wanted a change in my career. At that point, I had worked for over 13 years in the corporate world, including banking and tech. I had studied Economics and had done an MBA from one of the top schools in the world. I had lived and worked in 8 countries, on 4 continents. So, I have done all that, learned about the functioning of the business world, in the digital-first age, but now, I wanted do something I was passionate about and where I could best utilize my skills.
The idea of Pavillon 54 came as I was trying to add a piece to my collection to decorate my apartment and realized how hard it still was when you’re not on the continent. But Pavillon 54 is also perfect as it combines my background in marketing and digital with my experience as an African woman with my passion, interest and desire to show the world the image and rich cultural heritage! And the timing couldn’t be better given the rise of interest in African art in recent years

Hanna: Coming back to Pavillon 54, how do you plan to work: mainly with artists or galleries?
Dana Endundo Ferreira: It’s going be both. We want to support artists and galleries by providing them with exposure and tech tools they would otherwise not have access to or use. Artists, especially in a lot of African countries, do not have access or the knowledge to present themselves online properly. So, this is definitely a value proposition that we are offering. But it applies also to small size galleries or even the medium size galleries. Some in more established markets might have a website, but it doesn’t go much further than that. A small gallery often cannot take on the challenge of taking care of a full digital solution themselves. It would be cost-efficient for galleries to work with a marketplace that is already in place.

Hanna: What about pricing? Galleries used to hide prices, which can lead to “gambling” on the market – if I am dressed more ‘stylish’ and have a good online profile, you can tell me a higher price, and then I have to research it. And this in the long term can lead to less trust in the market, as a whole.
Dana Endundo Ferreira: I know the problems around price transparency from the art market. But I strongly believe in transparency. And I also believe that customer behaviors are changing a people in general expect more seamless experiences online and more transparency. So, by hiding prices galleries are restricting the market, it can create a lack of trust on the buyers side, and this prevents people from investing in art. If you see something online and you have to call for the price, it is an extra-effort. Let’s take an example: You have 2000 dollars, and then you see “contact for price”, you already imagine that is too expensive and you do not want to make calls after calls, till you find something you can afford. If you knew it was 2000 from the start, you could maybe buy it right away! It’s all about customer experience. And a lot can be done for offer a great customer experience for the online buyer, such as giving more insurance or the possibility of returning something if they do not like it, and so on
More transparency around pricing, yes, it is going to be good for the market. Some galleries that used to gamble with the price might fall, but overall, it will make more people will buy and invest in art.

Hanna: What will you offer?
Dana Endundo Ferreira: What people can expect from Pavillon 54 are paintings, photographs, and sculptures from emerging, new and established artists in the continent and the diaspora. All artwork and artists will be pre-vetted and curated to ensure quality.
The good news for buyers is that art from Africa is of great quality and diversity while still being relatively affordable. You can easily find exceptional pieces for below $10,000 US dollar.
That’s also why now is the time to invest in it.
And Pavillon 54 will help you make educated choices by providing as much information about each artwork, artists, history and context.
In addition to operating online, Pavillon 54 will offer a physical dimension to our business through regular limited-time events such as pop-up exhibitions, studio visits, talks or artistic retreats in different cities across the world to offer in-person experiences to a wider market. I believe that this hybrid business model (online and offline) is likely to characterize the future of many art market businesses, because art buyers like the convenience of online but still value the physical experience of viewing art in person.
Though with the Covid crisis, we’ll have to postpone some of those events and/or adapt them to an online format. For those that will remain offline, we’ll adjust our events to ensure the public safety

Hanna: I have seen small/ medium galleries, with passion and good intentions, but not always this is doubled with strong management or communication skills. Sometimes, I was always wondering how these are resisting…?
Dana Endundo Ferreira: Sometimes, the art world can be this world that lives somehow in a bubble. Many have started their galleries out of passion but without emphasis on the business of management side of things. A lot of small and medium galleries are struggling to keep afloat and there are fewer galleries opening each year since 2010 according to the UBS Art Basel Global Art Market Report. Still according to the same report, the number one challenge faced by many galleries is how to find new clients. The digital space can surely help with that. But you need experienced players that can leverage digital and technology to their best to expand the top of the funnel, promote the art, communicate with customers effectively and generate revenues. This is why it is so important to provide a platform for artists and galleries, so they can easily present themselves in a professional way and make an income out of their passion and talent.

Hanna: Thank you very much for this insightful discussion, good luck for the future!

Pavillon 54 is the go-to platform for Art from Africa, connecting artists, collectors, dealers, institutions and consumers across the world. Our mission is to serve them by offering the tools and technology to discover, learn, be inspired, collect and invest intelligently in Modern and Contemporary Art from Africa. Much more than an online gallery, Pavillon 54 is an African ecosystem whose values are diversity, excellence, innovation and social responsibility. We work with artists from Africa, the diaspora as well as artists inspired by the continent. Pavillon 54 has no borders.