Review: Sotheby’s Modern and Contemporary African Art Sale
On May 16, 2017, Sotheby’s inaugural sale of Modern and Contemporary African Art realised a total of £2,794,750 in London, a new benchmark for an auction in this category. In addition, a new record was set for the British-Nigerian artist Yinka Shonibare, when Crash Willy, from 2009, sold for £224,750. In 2010, this work was the centerpiece of the summer exhibition at the Royal Academy in London and the recipient of The Royal Academy of Arts Charles Wollaston award for Most Distinguished Work.
The most valuable two works in the sale were by the Ghanaian artist El Anatsui, whose tapestry of shimmering bottle caps, Earth Developing More Roots from 2011, sold for £728,750, and the South African artist Irma Stern, whose still life of Sunflowers from 1942 made £416,750.
An exciting result was achieved for the South African artist Nicholas Hlobo, making his auction debut with a mixed media work which sold for £60,000, soaring over its pre-sale estimate of £8,000-12,000. The price achieved cements Hlobo’s place on the secondary market, now in tandem with his strong institutional presence following the exhibition of his work at the Centre Pompidou, the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art, Tate Modern, and the Boston ICA.
63 artists from 14 countries were represented in the sale: Algeria (North Africa), Benin, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Mali, Nigeria and Senegal (West Africa), Ethiopia and Uganda (East Africa), Cameroon and Democratic Republic of Congo (Central Africa), Angola, South Africa and Zimbabwe (Southern Africa). 33% of artists included in the sale had been sold at auction fewer than 10 times before (20 artists). Over 50% of artists included in the sale had been sold at auction fewer than 25 times before (34 artists). Pre-sale estimate £2.78 – 4 million.
New records were set for 16 artists: Yinka Shonibare (lot 106, Nigerian-British). António Ole (lots 87 & 103, Angola), superseding the artist record set at Sotheby’s London sale of David Bowie’s personal collection last year. This is also a new record for an Angolan Modern or Contemporary artist at auction. Pascale Marthine Tayou (lot 105, Cameroon), also a new record for a Cameroonian Modern or Contemporary artist at auction. Ouattara Watts (lot 33, Ivory Coast), also a new record for an Ivorian Modern or Contemporary artist at auction. Armand Boua (lot 98, Ivory Coast), his auction record has now been broken five times since October 2016. Abiodun Olaku (lot 9, Nigeria), four of the top five highest auction prices for the artist have been set in the past year. Also, Meschac Gaba (lot 36, Benin), Wosene Worke Kosrof (lot 52, Ethiopia), Uzo Egonu (lot 50, Nigeria), Nnenna Okore (lot 116, Nigeria), Mikhael Subotzky (lot 18, South Africa), Francisco Vidal (lot 88, Angola).
First appearances at auction for: Eddy Ilunga Kamuanga (lot 5, Congo), Vincent Michéa (lots 37 & 38, Senegal), Leonce Raphael Agbodjelou (lot 54, Benin), Nicholas Hlobo (lot 60, South Africa).
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