El Anatsui Headlines Arthouse Sales on May 5

El Anatsui Headlines Arthouse Sales on May 5

Foremost Lagos-based Arthouse will on May 5 hold its 12th sales of modern and contemporary art. The sales will feature 111 lots drawn from artists across Africa including Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya and Togo.

The highlights of the evening are 2 works by Ghanaian sculptor, and one of the greatest living African artists, El Anatsui. Both works are Commercial Avenue, 2014, wood, aluminium and house paint, 212×278 cm, estimated between N33, 000,000-36,000,000 ($206,250-225,000) and Untitled, 1991, wood, 148×149 cm, estimated between N17, 000,000-20,000,000, ($106,250-125,000).

The former is expected to break the 3-year old record for work sold on the domestic market, of N30, 800,000 ($192, 500) for a miniature copy of Anyanwu, 1956, bronze, 142.2cm, by celebrated artist, Ben Enwonwu.

Commercial Avenue differs significantly from Anatsui’s earlier relief plaques in this medium, carved with a chainsaw and other power tools, and characterized by anthropomorphic imagery and embellished with decorative paint and burn marks from the oxyacetylene flame. Here, his new work retains the form of his early experiments and incorporates strips of flattened metals fashioned from bottle caps- building components of his renowned large-scale sculpture. In Commercial Avenue, the artist is successful in mimicking the colourful consumer goods and excited banter of the busy African market.

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Another work by El Anatsui, Nsukka Shrine, clay, 57×44.5 cm, valued between N7, 000,000 – 9,000,000,000 ($43,750-56,250) also features in the auction. Enwonwu is himself represented by 5 works including a limited edition print. A small wood plaque, Felling Trees, 1943, 32×105 cm, is expected to fetch between N7, 000, 000 – 9, 000, 000, 000 ($43, 750 – 56, 250), the highest for the artist’s work. Bruce Onobrakpeya’s Cultural Industrial Economic, 1978-1981, revival copper foil and ivorex on panel, 203×439 .4 cm, is also expected to achieve 7-figure digits of between N10, 000, 000-12,000,000 ($62,500-75,000).

Photography doesn’t feature strongly in the auction and has a combined estimate of N3, 050,000-4,150,000 ($19,070-25,950). Only four artists are included in sales; George Osodi, Adolphus Opara, Yetunde Ayeni-Babaeko, and Ade Adekola whose Okada-Dare Devils or Dare Angels, 2012, C-print mounted under acrylic glass, edition 1 of 5, 100×300 cm has a presale estimate of N1, 400,000-1,800,000 ($8,750-11,250).

Regular names in the sales include celebrated sculptors Ben Osawe and Sokari Douglas-Camp. Others are Abayomi Barber, Akinola Lasekan, Owusu-Ankomah, Ablade Glover, Susan Wenger, and South African-based American artist, Gary Stephens. The auction is expected to achieve a total of over $1,250,000 in sales and will hopefully boost collectors’ confidence in the domestic market.


Oliver Enwonwu is founder and Editor-in-Chief of Omenka magazine, Director, Omenka Gallery and Chief Executive, Revilo. He holds a first degree in Biochemistry, advanced diploma in Exploration Geophysics (distinction), Post Graduate Diplomas in Applied Geophysics and Visual Art (distinction) and a Masters in Art History, all from the University of Lagos. He is the founder, Executive Director, and trustee of The Ben Enwonwu Foundation. He also sits on the board of several organizations including the National Gallery of Art, Nigeria and the Reproduction Rights Society of Nigeria. Enwonwu is also president of both the Society of Nigerian Artists and the Alliance of Nigerian Art Galleries.

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