The contemporary art scene in Africa is vibrant, with many artists producing masterful pieces in relative obscurity. Although arts funding is often inadequate, you can help support artists by buying their work. A bright canvas by an up-and-coming Kenyan painter makes a wonderful souvenir, for example, and is more unique than the carved hippos and giraffes sold on every street corner. In this article, we list a handful of the best contemporary art galleries across all four corners of the continent.
There are also many galleries that don't have websites; so be sure to keep an eye out for hidden treasure troves while you're traveling.
Art Galleries in North Africa
L’Appartement 22, Rabat
L'appartement 22 is an independent, collaborative project based in Rabat, Morocco's capital city. It is the first such space in Morocco, and has since inspired a number of artist-run spaces and collectives.
Matisse Art Gallery, Marrakech
Matisse Art Gallery opened in 1999 and is one of the oldest galleries in the city. It presents works by Moroccan and international artists but specializes in solo shows for young artists from Marrakesh.
The Safar Khan Gallery, Cairo
Situated in Cairo's upscale Zamalek district, this gallery was established in 1968 and is now known to house some of Egypt's finest modern and contemporary art. It has a busy schedule of exciting exhibitions.
Townhouse Art Gallery, Cairo
One of the leading independent art spaces in the region exhibits artworks by contemporary Arab and international artists. The gallery also stages film screenings, music performances and public lectures.
This contemporary gallery showcases established artists while also supporting new talent. Temporary exhibitions occur on a monthly basis, in addition to frequent performances, lectures and discussions.
Galerie Elmarsa, La Marsa
This gallery was established in 1994 to generate interest in Arab art. It hosts a variety of exhibitions featuring emerging and recognized artists who reflect the historical and cultural diversity of the region.
Le Violon Blue, Sidi-Bou-Said
Located in the beautiful coastal town of Sidi-Bou-Said, this gallery hosts regular exhibitions and private viewings of contemporary art from North Africa and beyond. The gallery also has a branch in London.
Art Galleries in East Africa
Addis Fine Art, Addis Ababa
This pioneering gallery has branches in Addis Ababa and London. It focuses on promoting modern and contemporary fine art from across the Horn of Africa and hosts regular exhibitions, talks and events.
Kuona Artists Collective, Nairobi
Previously known as the Kuona Trust, this artists' collective is located in Nairobi's leafy suburbs and includes art workshops, lectures, exhibitions and residencies by international artists. It also hosts regular art sales.
Banana Hill Art Gallery, Nairobi
Banana Hill Art Gallery is a respected venue that exhibits paintings and sculptures by established and up-and-coming artists. Here, potential clients can meet and talk with the creators before buying.
AfriArt Gallery, Kampala
AfriArt was founded in 2002 and has two branches in the Ugandan capital. It promotes contemporary art from Uganda and East Africa while also encouraging international collaborations.
Art Galleries in West and Central Africa
Through solo exhibitions, group shows and large themed exhibitions, this gallery examines modern and contemporary art developments in Nigeria. It also produces Omenka, a respected art publication.
Hourglass Gallery, Lagos
Hourglass Gallery is a sophisticated space filled with contemporary fine art from Nigeria and West Africa. Highlighted artists include painters and sculptors whose work is featured in regular exhibitions.
Gallery 1957, Accra
This gallery presents leading artists from across West Africa and its diasporas. It has two spaces in Accra and uses exhibitions, gallery partnerships and art fairs to promote Ghanaian art on a global scale.
Galerie Cecile Fakhoury, Abidjan and Dakar
With galleries in Côte d'Ivoire and Senegal, Cecile Fakhoury has made a name for itself as one of the leading authorities on contemporary art both in West Africa specifically and Africa generally.
Art Galleries in Southern Africa
Matombo Gallery, Harare
This gallery is renowned as one of the best sources for contemporary Shona sculptures. It has also organized several critically acclaimed international exhibitions featuring the works of Zimbabwe's leading artists.
First Floor Art Gallery, Harare
This exciting industrial space provides an opportunity for emerging artists to experiment, to show their new work to their peers and audiences and to share skills and experiences with fellow artists.
Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg and Cape Town
The Goodman Gallery is at the forefront of contemporary art in South Africa. Its focus is on artists – from South Africa, the African continent and overseas – who engage in a dialogue within an African context.
Gallery MOMO, Johannesburg and Cape Town
Gallery MOMO has spaces in Johannesburg and Cape Town and represents a prominent selection of local and international artists, including artists from the diaspora, who create African art across all disciplines.
WhatiftheWorld, Cape Town
Whatiftheworld acts as a platform for established and emerging contemporary artists from South Africa and the wider African continent. Exhibitions focus on ambitious solo projects and multi-disciplinary installations.
This article was updated and re-written in part by Jessica Macdonald on August 2 2019.