Review: Sotheby’s 2018 Modern and Contemporary African Art Sale

Review: Sotheby’s 2018 Modern and Contemporary African Art Sale
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Held on March 28, 2018, Sotheby’s second sale of Modern and Contemporary African Art realised £1,802,750 GBP / $2,555,038 USD in London (pre-sale estimate: £1,167,500-1,707,000 / $1,654, 698-2,419,331 USD) and set fourteen auction records in this category.

The sale was led by two Nigerian artists, pioneer of African modernism Ben Enwonwu, whose work Africa Dances achieved six times its high estimate to sell for £187,500 / $265,744 (est. £20,000-30,000) and Njideka Akunyili Crosby whose À La Warhol, a self-portrait inspired by the silkscreen portraits of Andy Warhol, sold for over double its high estimate to reach £200,000 / $283,460 (est. £50,000-70,000).

Numerous Congolese artists saw their works soar past pre-sale estimates including Bodys Isek Kingelez’s Base King which sold for £42,500 / $60,235 (est. £10,000-15,000) and Eddy Kamuanga Ilunga’s Mangbetu, which achieved £65,000 / $92,124 (est. £8,000-12,000).

All but one of ten works offered from the collection of philanthropists Jerome and Ellen Stern sold for a combined total of £197,875 / $280,447. This followed Sotheby’s New York sale of further works from their collection TO LIVE WITH ART: Property from the Jerome and Ellen Stern Collection earlier this year. The top lot was Claudette Schreuders Three Sisters, which sold for £60,000 / $85,038 (est. £18,000-22,000).

A record was set by Ibrahim Mahama’s jute sacks and mixed media piece Chale Wote, which sold for £75,000 / $106,298 (est. £60,000-90,000).

Ivorian artist Frédéric Bruly Bouabré achieved strong results for Une cruelle Humanitié, tripling its pre-sale estimate at £40,000/ £56,692 (est. £10,000-15,000) and securing a record for the artist.

“We saw very strong prices for a variety of artists, from well-established names such as Nigerian modernist Ben Enwonwu, to Eddy Kamuanga Ilunga, who is only 27 years old. These results reflect the strength and diversity of the Modern & Contemporary African Art market, and provide a compelling reason for our decision to now expand our African sales program to two auctions a year”, says Hannah O’Leary, Head of Modern and Contemporary Art at Sotheby’s.

Sale Overview

·         Second sale dedicated to Modern and Contemporary African Art at Sotheby’s

·         14 auction records set

·         Sale included works by 62 artists from 16 countries across Africa, many of whom have rarely – if ever – been offered at international auction before

·         Artists from the following countries were represented:  Algeria, Morocco (North Africa), Benin, Ghana, Ivory Coast , Mali, Nigeria, Senegal (West Africa), Ethiopia (East Africa), Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon (Central Africa), South Africa, Swaziland, Zimbabwe, Mozambique (Southern Africa)

·         28 works (25% of the sale) were by artists from South Africa

·         Only 6 works in the sale have ever been at auction before (5% of the sale)

·         Pre-sale estimate: £1,167,500-1,707,000

·         106 lots total in the sale

Bidders and Buyers 

·         Competitive international bidding from both private collectors and institutional buyers

·         Buyers from 33 different countries

·         One third of the successful bidders were from the African continent

·         19% of buyers were new to Sotheby’s

Auction Records

New auction records were set for Bodys Isek Kingelez (Lot 11)Eddy Kamuanga Ilunga (Lots 24 & 25), J.D ‘Okhai Ojeikere (Lot 33), Aida Muluneh (Lot 35), Ade Adesina (Lot 39), Dominque Zinkpè (Lots 43 & 44), Gavin Jantjes (Lot 49), Abdoulaye Aboudia Diarrassouba (Lot 51), Ibrahim Mahama (55), Claudette Schreuders (Lots 71, 72, 73), Nandipha Mntambo (Lots 74 & 76), Frédéric Bruly Bouabré (Lot 87), Virginia Chihota (Lot 106) and Ablade Glover (Lot 111).

Auction Debut

Two artists made their auction debut, Aida Muleneh (Lot 35) and Ade Adesina (Lot 39).


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