Sunflowers, an oil on canvas painting by Irma Stern, sold for $538,524 at Sotheby’s Modern and Contemporary African Art auction in London. Image: Sotheby’s
LONDON-After great expectations, the Sotheby’s modern and contemporary African art auction happened in London. Sadly, the sale did not break the record set by Bonhams several years ago. Nonetheless, it was a great start for Sotheby’s in its efforts to sell modern and contemporary African art. During the sale, 155 lots were offered and 79 works sold, realizing $3,611,376. The sale surpassed the set estimate.
Leading the sale was Earth Developing More Roots by El Anatsui. The relief sculpture made from aluminum bottle caps and copper wire sold for $941,691, surpassing the estimate of £650,000-850,00.
As expected, the auction brought together collectors from across the globe. Those that could not make it to the auction venue were on the phone, bidding for their favorite works. Collectors from 29 countries slogged it out on the auction floor at this exciting auction that saw many surprises.
Irma Stern’s Sunflower, an oil on canvas painted in 1942, did not disappoint. When it came on the block, collectors from across the globe demanded to have it in their collection. The painting measuring 86 by 86cm was done during Stern’s travels to Belgian Congo. This was during the Second World War.
Stern’s visit to Congo and painting during the trip took her mind away from the raging violence. Sunflower was acquired directly from the artist in June of 1944 by Caroline (‘Ina’), Lady Oppenheimer. The painting consists of 5 Sunflowers in brilliant yellow. Estimated at £350,000 — 550,000, it sold for $538, 524 (£416,750) to a private collector in Africa.
Crash Willy by Yinka Shonibare was one of the works at the auction that got collectors very excited. Made from mannequin, Dutch wax printed cotton textile, leather, fiberglass, and metal, the work was conceived in 2009. Done in Shonibare’s unique style, the sculpture depicts a man sitting lifelessly behind his crashed car. The car is ruined and the man seems dead in what is a dramatic event borrowed from history. Crash Willy is an important example of Yinka Shonibare’s works, especially the ones from the Tableaux Vivants series. Estimated at between £120,000 — 180,000, the piece sold for $290,422 (£224,750), setting a new auction record for the artist at the auction.
Sotheby’s inaugural Modern and contemporary African art auction was full of surprises. In addition to Yinka Shonibare, several other artists made auction records. They include António Ole, (Angola), Pascale Marthine Tayou (Cameroon), Owattare Watts (Ivory Coast), Armand Bous (Ivory Coast) Abiodu Olaku (Nigeria).
Below are the Top Lots at the Sotheby’s inaugural Modern and Contemporary African Art Auction held in London.