Tribes Art Africa Gallery’s driving mission is to promote art from Africa and the African diaspora, particularly from artists who have been underrepresented. The gallery exists wholly online and champions emerging contemporary African artists.
Browse TAAG Gallery on Artsy
Nineteen years after founding Tribes Art Africa Gallery (TAAG), Nigerian artist and gallerist Rodney Asikhia was planning to open a new gallery space in the Georgetown district of Washington, D.C., when the COVID-19 pandemic struck in 2020.
Facing lockdowns and prolonged uncertainty, Asikhia adopted a new strategy: He joined Artsy and launched TAAG entirely online. Today, the gallery is flourishing, with its revenue on Artsy doubling year over year.
We caught up with Asikhia about his experience, including how he scaled his business using Artsy—as well as his advice for fellow gallerists.
On building relationships with artists
TAAG’s mission is to promote art from Africa and the African diaspora, particularly from artists who have been underrepresented in many art institutions. Since 2001, the gallery has represented more than 100 African artists; and its roster currently includes emerging names such as Wilson Imini, Kolawole Samson Oluwadare, and Affen Segun.
Asikhia discovers fresh talent by attending exhibitions and events, as well as through social media and recommendations. The latter is how he initially discovered 21-year-old Nigerian artist Wilson Imini. “I was curating a show on new emerging African artists and discovered Wilson through Princess Uzo from Lagos Art Shows NYC,” Asikhia told Artsy. “From that show, we developed a relationship.”
To cultivate relationships with artists like Imini, Asikhia holds a weekly call to catch up and gain insight into what’s happening in the studio. Maintaining relationships with a vast network of artists is an integral component of TAAG’s practice and success.
“We have sold over 110 unique works of art via Artsy, I believe other galleries looking to see an increase in sales can do the same.”
Rodney Asikhia, TAAG
“For me, it is all about the stories, and how they will inspire those who come after us,” he said. Consistently engaging with the artists in this way enables the gallery to share artists’ stories in detail, and bring the collector behind the canvas so they can appreciate the work at a deeper level.
For Asikhia, TAAG is a platform that promotes as well as empowers the artists that it represents. For example, when Imini was featured on Artsy, he sold out a series of works titled “the approach.” This helped the artist afford a befitting funeral for a loved one whom he had recently lost, and pay for it on behalf of his family.
This example demonstrated to Asikhia the impact TAAG could have on artists’ personal and professional lives. “This lifted [the artist’s] spirit,” said Asikhia. “Wilson [Imini] is only 21 years of age and the sole provider for his family.”
On developing a successful online gallery
Once TAAG shifted to being solely online, the gallery began focusing on its digital strategy using Artsy. Its results so far have been remarkable. “We have sold over 110 unique works of art via Artsy,” Asikhia said of his gallery’s success. “I believe other galleries looking to see an increase in sales can do the same.”
Having sold work by more than 30 artists on Artsy, Asikhia cites consistency as the key to developing a strong and successful online presence. Every day, the gallery publishes new works on Artsy, and shares them with collectors on social media to ensure broader exposure.
TAAG also takes full advantage of Artsy’s features—such as Artsy Viewing Rooms, Conversations, and Buy Now / Make Offer—to create a seamless experience for collectors. “My day-to-day tasks involve uploading works on Artsy, scheduling viewing rooms, scheduling online shows, and maintaining [artwork metadata] to maximize visibility,” Asikhia said.
He especially finds Artsy’s Conversations tool useful, allowing him to “connect with the collector and better understand how I can be of help towards works they’re considering,” he said. With the Conversations tool, Asikhia can address any questions a collector might have about an artwork, and offer them further insight—increasing engagement and appreciation.
“We had one collector from Atlanta who purchased a work on Artsy and kept in regular contact afterwards. When we went to an event in Atlanta, she was able to come and meet us physically and she acquired something from us that day. Being able to make these connections is really special.”
Rodney Asikhia, TAAG
“For a lot of African or Nigerian artists, the main thing they want is visibility and for people to appreciate and acquire it,” Asikhia said. Artsy has helped expand TAAG and its artists’ reach globally, and cultivate great connections with collectors through the Conversations tool.
One example is a collector who purchased a work from TAAG on Artsy, and kept in regular contact with the gallery afterward. As Asikhia explained, “When we went to an event in Atlanta, she was able to come and meet us physically and she acquired something from us that day. Being able to make these connections is really special.”
Furthermore, TAAG has benefited greatly from Artsy’s e-commerce functions: Buy Now, which enables collectors to make a purchase at a click of a button and creates a seamless transaction for the gallery; and Make Offer, which allows gallerists to negotiate price with collectors. “It’s a beautiful thing to give people the opportunity to see if they can acquire work,” Asikhia said. He advises that galleries fully take advantage of online marketing and selling tools: “It makes the dream work,” he added.
On the horizon
By using Artsy’s tools, TAAG has successfully established itself online. Constantly looking ahead for opportunities to build its artists’ reach and reputation, TAAG is currently working on a solo exhibition, and will soon participate in Future Fair 2023, showing works by artists such as Daniel Gyekyi Gyan, Wilson Imini, and Obiora Anamaleze.