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Technology Expands the World for African Artists

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ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia — A visit to Dawit Abebe’s painting studio on a recent morning was, to put it bluntly, a bit boring. The room, which he shares with two other artists in a nondescript building down a dirt alleyway in the center of Addis Ababa, was remarkably bare for the workplace of a successful artist: a few blank canvases stacked against the back wall and a lone, large, paint-splattered canvas on an easel.

When asked what the piece was meant to represent, Mr. Abebe, wearing a black T-shirt, jeans and a large silver Ethiopian Orthodox cross necklace, laughed heartily: “It’s the canvas I use to clean my brushes.”

The fact that Mr. Abebe’s studio space was empty is a mark of success. He had recently taken a few works to the Netherlands for an exhibition, and he had shipped off the rest to his London gallerist, Kristin Hjellegjerde, who was taking them to the Volta art fair in New York in early March, where she sold all 13 of them.

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