NYT: Addis Fine Art Gallery Enriches a Global Art Conversation

Mesai Haileleul, left, and Rakeb Sile in front of works by Merikokeb Berhanu.Credit...Addis Fine Art

The New York Times

With a trip to the Untitled fair in Miami, Addis Fine Art adds to the connections it’s building between Ethiopian artists and the rest of the world.

LONDON — How Addis Fine Art got off the ground is a tale of happenstance built on the back of good timing.

Rakeb Sile, 39, who was born in Philadelphia and raised in London, had always been interested in the arts, having even flirted with the idea of working in the music industry before settling on a career in management consulting.

But whenever she traveled back to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where she had lived for most of her early childhood until her family moved to Britain because of political unrest in the early 1990s, she spent time investigating the city’s growing but globally undiscovered contemporary art scene. She started collecting paintings and sometimes bought works directly from the artists because there was no professional gallery scene in terms of artist development and infrastructure.

Art became her passion, and in 2012 she took a six-month sabbatical in part because she was not sure if she wanted to stay in her career. “And I wanted to make sense of what I had collected,” she said, “to see where is the narrative.”

One of the people she was keen to meet was Mesai Haileleul, an Ethiopian art historian and a Los-Angeles-based gallery owner who had fled Ethiopia during the early days of the military junta in 1974. A mutual friend connected them when Ms. Sile was in Los Angeles, and over the span of a week, they talked about Ethiopia’s rich art history, the growing international conversations around African contemporary art and the idea of working together to promote what was happening on the ground artistically in Addis Ababa.

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