Sotheby’s Launches African Art Sale
On May 16, 2017, Sotheby’s will present its inaugural auction of Modern and Contemporary African Art led by Hannah O’Leary, Sotheby’s newly appointed Head of Modern and Contemporary African Art.
The auction will include some of best-known contemporary artists from across the continent, including El Anatsui, Yinka Shonibare, William Kentridge, Romuald Hazoumè, Chéri Samba, Meschac Gaba, Abdoulaye Konaté, Ouattara Watts, Kader Attia and Pascale Marthine Tayou, as well as the modern masters Ben Enwonwu, Uche Okeke, Skunder Boghossian, J.H. Pierneef and Irma Stern.
“There’s enormous untapped potential in this market, and together we are perfectly poised to explore it to the full,” O’Leary says in the house’s announcement of the new department.
Bonhams is the only other major art auctioneer with an African art department and boasts a 2011 high of $18 million of sales in that area, including the $5 million fetched for Irma Stern‘s painting Arab Priest in March 2011. Stern joins artists like El Anatsui, Julie Mehretu, William Kentridge, and Marlene Dumas among the top 100 African artists in Aka’s report.
The New York art world has also turned its eyes to the continent. The Armory Show highlighted 14 dealers from the continent in the “Focus” section of its 2016 outing, and this year also saw the second local outing of the 1:54 fair, devoted to African art.
Hannah O’Leary inaugurated South African art sales at Bonhams, where she started in 2006. The house organized its first South African art sale the following year, and its debut auction of modern and contemporary African art in 2009. After becoming head of the department in 2010, O’Leary oversaw a March 2011 sale of South African art that, according to Sotheby’s, was the highest-grossing auction in that area, totaling over £8.7 million ($12.8 million at today’s exchange rate).