El Anatsui’s Used Towel 1999, shows the growth of Africa on the global art market by setting new auction price. Carved, incised and painted wood in 25 pieces. 81 x 250cm. Image: Bonhams Auctions
LONDON- The demand for contemporary African art and artworks by some of Africa’s leading modern artists continues to grow. From auction to auction, collectors are striving to add works by African artists to their collections. At the recent Bonhams Africa Now–Modern Africa sale in London, Africa’s leading modern artists set new world records. Ben Enowonwu’s works alone achieved a staggering £836,875 in the action that realized a total of £2,000,000.
Topping the auction is Spirit of Ogolo by Ben Enwonwu. The oil on canvas painting, measuring 140 x 195. 5 cm, was painted in 1988. It depicts two dancing masquerades done in the elongated style the artist was renowned for. The iconic images of the masquerades represents Ben Enwonwu’s life-long work. Throughout his artistic career, the artist displayed an intense fascination for masquerades,painting many canvases and sculptures on this theme. Spirit of Ogolo is one those canvases. Using lines and colors, the Enwonwu captures the agile movement, vigorous dance steps and supernatural energy of the Ogolo performers. The painting sold for £218,500 against an estimate of £100,000-150,000, becoming the highest ever price for an oil painting by the Nigerian artist.
Spirit of Ogolo is just one of the artworks by Ben Enwonwu that captivated collectors at the Africa Now–Modern Africa auction. Negritide 1979, gouache on paper laid to board sold £86,500. Estimated at £20,000-30,000, the artwork surpassed all expectations, achieving a world record for a work on paper by the artist. African Woman 1982, an oil on canvas, sold for £170,500, surpassing the pre-auction estimate of £30,000-50,000.
Used Towel by El Anatsui was one of the top sellers at the Africa Now–Modern Africa auction. Estimated at £50,000-80,000, the carved, incised and painted wood measuring 81 x 250cm sold for £176,500. Besides surpassing the pre-auction estimate, it also established a new record at auction for a wooden sculpture by the Ghanaian sculptor. It also beat the previous record set at Bonhams in 2015.
Yusuf Grillo’s Mother of Twins 1970, is one of the top sellers at the auction. Estimated at £35,000 – 50,000, the oil on board by the Nigerian artist sold for £146,500, surpassing it pre-auction estimate. It also set a new world record at auction for a work by the painter.
The exceptional result of the African New–Modern Africa auction according to Bonhams Director of African Art Giles Peppiatt, shows great interest in African Modern art. He said: “The outstanding success of this sale – in all ten new world records were set – shows that the appetite among collectors for the very best of African Modern art is extremely strong. The bidding was intense throughout the sale with fierce competition for the leading lots. The strength in depth among African Modern and Contemporary artists promises much for the future.”