Benedict Chukwukadibia Enwonwu M.B.E (Nigerian, 1917-1994), Princes of Mali, oil on board 68.5 x 121.5cm (26 15/16 x 47 13/16in). Image courtesy of Bonhams
Modern and Contemporary African art auctions put Nigerian artists in focus
Nigerian artists gain ground as modern and contemporary African art continue to make great impact in the global art market. In the past one month, Artcentron has been providing insights into the progress of modern and contemporary African art in the global art market place. From all indications and market analysis, modern and contemporary African art continues to attract not just record art auction prices but also collectors from around the world.
As modern and contemporary African art moves forward in the global art market, Artcentron looks back in time to 2014 at the major auction of contemporary African art in London. Organized by Bonhams as part of the Africa Now auction series, the auction attracted collectors from across the globe. It included works by artists from various African countries, including Nigeria, Ghana, South Africa, Tanzania, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Mali, and Uganda among several others.
The Africa Now auction was in celebration of art from across African continent and included paintings, sculpture and mixed media works by top African artists. Although the action featured artists from at least fifteen African countries, it was Nigerian and Ghanaian artists whose works took top prices in a sale that made in excess of £1million and saw new world record prices for at least ten different African artists.
Speaking about the auction result, Hannah O’Leary, Bonhams Head of Contemporary African Art noted:
Since our inaugural Africa Now auction just five years ago, this market has gone from strength to strength. While artists from at least fifteen African countries were represented, the top prices were reserved for the best pieces by the Nigerian Masters, which seems appropriate for a country celebrating their centenary and that recently became Africa’s largest economy.
O’ Leary’s comment and the record prices recoded by Nigerian masters show the impact of Nigerian artists in the global art market space. Since Bonhams began the Africa Now auction about six years ago, Nigerian artists have been at the center of the art sales, recording major art auction prices. From painters to sculptors and mixed media artists, Nigerian artists have forcefully inserted themselves in the global art auction discourse. In 2013, for instance, a piece by Ben Enwonwu, the celebrated Nigerian sculptor and painter, made record auction price, selling for £361,250 ($ 538,231) inc. premium. Another painting by the artist titled The Durbar of Eid ul-Fitr, Kano, Nigeria sold for £193,250 ($287,926) inc. premium. Yusuf Grillo’s painting titled The Blue Madonna also sold for £50,000 ($ 74, 495) inc. premium.
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Beyond the famous Nigerian art masters, many young Nigerian artists are also coming into focus as their works continue to fetch amazing prices at auctions. Young artists like Bunmi Babatunde, Sam Ovariti, Kainebi Osahenye and many others have continued to bring awareness to Nigerian art. In 2013, a sculpture by Babatunde sold for £23,750 (US$ 35,385) inc. premium.
The top lot of the African Now modern and contemporary African art sale in 2014 was Princes of Mali by Ben Enwonwu. Estimated at £ 80,000- 120,000, the work sold for £92,500. Yusuf Grillo’s African Woman with Gele also did well during the art sale. Estimated at £30,000 – 50,000, the oil on canvas painting sold for £80,500. A wooden sculpture by Ghanaian artist El Anatsui titled The Clan also sold for £27,500.
Here are top ten lots from the modern and contemporary African art auction in London. The total amount of works sold at the Africa Now was £1,058,075. The top lots are all Nigerian artists. Prices include premium
1. Lot 67. Benedict Chukwukadibia Enwonwu M.B.E (Nigerian, 1917-1994) Princes of Mali, oil on board 68.5 x 121.5cm (26 15/16 x 4713/16in). Estimate: £ 80,000 – 120,000. Price Realized: £92,500
2. Lot 52. Yusuf Adebayo Cameron Grillo (Nigerian, born 1934) African Woman with Gele, oil on canvas 92.5 x 91.5cm (36 7/16 x 36in). Estimate: £30,000 – 50,000. Price Realized: £80,500
3. Lot 78. Benedict Chukwukadibia Enwonwu M.B.E (Nigerian, 1917-1994) Ogolo. Estimate: £40,000 – 60,000. Price Realized: £67,300
4. Lot 47. Benedict Chukwukadibia Enwonwu M.B.E (Nigerian, 1917-1994), Anyanwu, 95 x 32 x 19cm (37 3/8 x 12 5/8 x 7 1/2in). (excluding base). Estimate: £12,000 – 18,000. Price Realized: £64,900
5. Lot 42. Yusuf Adebayo Cameron Grillo (Nigerian, born 1934), The Flight, oil on board 122 x 122cm (48 1/16 x 48 1/16in). Estimate: £50,000 – 80,000. Price Realized: £62,500
6. Lot 43. Yusuf Adebayo Cameron Grillo (Nigerian, born 1934) The Blue Madonna oil on composition board 119.5 x 51cm (47 1/16 x 20 1/16in). Estimate: £20,000 – 30,000. Price Realized: £50,000
7. Lot 53. Yusuf Adebayo Cameron Grillo (Nigerian, born 1934) Mother – IYA series oil on board 111.5 x 45.5cm (43 7/8 x 17 15/16in). Estimate: £20,000 – 30,000. Price Realized: £43,750
8. Lot 104. Benedict Chukwukadibia Enwonwu M.B.E (Nigerian, 1917-1994), Africa Dances, 81 x 42 x 17cm (31 7/8 x 16 9/16 x 6 11/16in). Estimate: £30,000 – 50,000. Price Realized: £35,000
9. Lot 2. Benedict Chukwukadibia Enwonwu M.B.E (Nigerian, 1917-1994) Workers in the Fields, oil on board 53 x 72cm (20 7/8 x 28 3/8in). Estimate: £25,000 – 35,000. Price Realized: £31,250
10. Lot 117. Bunmi Babatunde (Nigerian, born 1957) Possibilities, 255 x 16.5 x 42cm (100 3/8 x 6 1/2 x 16 9/16in). Estimate: £7,000 – 10,000. Price Realized: £31,250
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