Saturday, 23 May 2015

Bonhams' $1.3m Sale Make New World Records For Modern African Art

Bonhams sale of Modern African Art – ‘Africa Now’ – made a total £827,000 (NGN256million or US$1.3million) in London, on Wednesday  May, 20 with a number of new world records achieved.

One of the top sales, Africa Dances by Ben Enwonwu
These new records, according to Bonhams, were from Erhabor Emokpae (Nigerian, 1934-1984) ‘Eda’, sold for £10,625; Ato Delaquis, (Ghanaian, born 1945) 'Flamboyants', sold for £9,375; Bernard Matemera (Zimbabwean, 1946-2006), ‘Elephant Spirit’ sold for £7,750; and for a wooden sculpture by El Anatsui (lots 64 and 65 sold for £62,500 or $100,000 each). The superstar Ghanaian artist recently received the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement of the 56th International Art Exhibition of the Biennale di Venezia.

The top ten pictures in the sale were dominated by two names, Ben Enwonwu and Yusuf Grillo.

The most valuable item in the sale was by Nigerian artist Ben Enwonwu, an elegant bronze figure ‘Anyanwu Simplified’ which bears many similarities to the sculpture commissioned for the National Museum of Lagos in 1958. It was the top lot in the sale at £74,500. His painting 'Africa Dances' 1973 depicting an energetic dance that serves as a metaphor for Africa’s identity sold for £68,500 was the second highest price.

Giles Peppiatt, Director of African Art at Bonhams said after the sale: “Once more records fell in our Africa Now sale. The strength of demand from buyers for this newly appreciated art is growing steadily. Sales and exhibitions and media coverage of this phenomenon is helping to drive interest which is fantastic news for a whole new generation of African artists.”

When art historians look back on the 20th Century, the voices and vision of a small group of trail-blazing artists whose lives bridged the gap between Africa and Europe will be seen and heard to be hugely significant.

The ‘Africa Now’ auctions at Bonhams showcase works by these African Masters, along with many others from across the continent; Mozambique, Ghana, Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo were all represented. These pioneers lead this giant continent of 54 countries in a visual language that is increasingly being seen and acknowledged around the world.

For centuries, African and European art had largely followed independent trajectories. However, by 1950 a handful of artists emerged who were interested in bridging the gap between the two cultures.

Pioneering modernists from Nigeria, Ben Enwonwu (1917-1994), Uzo Egonu (1931-1996) and Yusuf Grillo (born 1934), were instrumental in orchestrating this change that paved the way for the next generation who are truly international in their aesthetic and exhibit their work all over the world.

Degradation of Lagos coastline, according to Idu's The Other World

By Tajudeen Sowole
Environmental degredation of Lagos coastal areas takes the attention of painter, Chika Idu's palette, suggesting that domestic activities are as culpable as unregulated industrial factors as well as poor management of wastes.

Task by Chika Idu
 Idu's paintings on canvas, which capture polluted waters are on display as The Other World, a solo art exhibition showing from today and ending 30, May 2015, at Alexis Galleries, Victoria Island, Lagos. If Idu thought that Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola's 'Eko o Ni Baje' slogan of prosperous Lagos has, in eight years, imparted positively on the attitude of the people, the artist was wrong; an alternative transportation by ferry gave a different picture.

 From paintings that capture suspected unauthorised sand dreadgings, to defecating by rural dwellers on water along the coastal areas as well as polluted surface of waters with sea of non-biodegradeable plastic and nylon, Lagos coastal line apparently, is a huge contrast to Fashola's 'Eko O Ni Baje', at least from Idu's painterly perspective.

  Sponsored by Litho-Chrome, Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin, Cool TV, Wa Zo Bia TV, Cool FM, Nig Info Lagos, Wa Zo Bia FM, Arra Wines The Avenue Suites, Nova Internet Solutions, Chocolate Royal, The Homestores Art CafĂ© and Alexis Galleries, Idu's The Other World also offers a window into the double edge sword of government policy, particularly how implementation and enforcement suffers in an electioneering periods. However, The Under World is not political or an affront in challenging government's policy, rather it complements it. "My work is more of an environmental awareness campaign," the painter who resides in Ikorodu, a satelite town off the coast of Lagos and Victoria Islands explains to select guests during a preview. "It shows different view of Lagos in the areas of sand digging from the water and pollution of the surface by used plastics and nylons."

 Some of the works include children and young adult themes rendered in impasto texture impressionism. Apart from using the exhibition to display his skill in underwater painting, some of the works stress the health hazards of a poorly managed environment. For example, Water Everywhere depicts children scooping 'cleaner water' from a dirty surface. "From the same water in which the people take bath, defecate and do all sorts of washings, they still get water for cooking and drinking," the artist alleges.

 The complexity of regulating or improving the living conditions of inhabitants across coastlines into the overall environment management policy of Lagos state is a recurring issue. Perhaps, it takes those who are close to the people who build their houses on stilts to understand the challenges of lack of understanding between government and the inhabitants. Idu, who once had his studio at Makoko, a popular coastline settlement for fishermen, sand diggers and plank workers, recalls the cultural factor that keeps the people perpetually living on the water.  "When I used to have my studio at Makoko, I found out that the people are naturally stuck to the place." He notes "the people's claims that living on the water is ancestral heritage."

 Co-curator at Alexis, Patty Chidiac says Idu has "a vibrant style" that is "not easy to copy" by other artists. He has been on the radar of the gllery since three years, she discloses.
  A member of Defactori studio Idu is currently teaching art at the French international School Lagos

  Some of Idu’s selected shows include The Light 1996 at Bishop Vinine  Lagos; Discovery   2002, Muson Centre Lagos; Fusion   2003 Nimbus Gallery Lagos;  Ndinnta  2003 Maison De France Lagos; solo such as Our Experience 2004 National Musium Lagos; Timeless  2014 at Tera Kulture Gallery  Lagos; and Intro,  Quintessence Gallery  Lagos.

New Look Lagos Art Auction Takes Off

By Tajudeen Sowole
With 51 lots sold from a total of 90 at TKMG’s Lagos Art Auction 2015, there was indication that the new focus of the auction house on middle generation and young artists has a prospect. Ahead of the auction, TKMG disclosed that from the May 2015 edition onwards, the lots will be dominated by works of the non-old masters and young artists with the hope of building a vibrant future for Nigerian art market.

A mixed media Dupe by Oshinowo was sold for N2,200,000

 However, the resilience of the old masters was still felt during the TKMG auction held at Terra Kulture, Victoria Island, Lagos. Kolade Oshinowo, a second generation of Nigerian modernists and Abayomi Barber, one of the few living old masters, led the top of the sales.

According to a list of sales released by TKMG, from the total sales of N23,950,000; a mixed media Dupe by Oshinowo was sold for N2,200,000; and Female Study, pencil on paper by Abayomi Barber for N1,050,000. But Metamorphosis (wood) by Ruben Ugbine, which sold for N1,000,000 confirmed the prospect of non-old masters.

The previous edition of TKMG auction, held last year at Continental Hotel, Victoria Island Lagos had Dance in the bush by Bruce Onobrakpeya sold for N3,650,000; Untitled by El Anatsui, 3,050,000; and Oshinowo’s At The Party for N2,200,000 as top of the sales. The total sales represented 61 per cent of the lots.
In the last three years, Oshinowo has thickened the texture of his canvas with fabrics being blend into the images that are mostly portraits. For Dupe, a 2012 mixed media from the new set of painting on fabrics technique by the artist, it’s, perhaps, a confirmation that the new texturised canvas of Oshinowo is not exactly a fragile leap as conservatives in Nigerian art appreciation space have argued. Estimated to sell at between N2,200,000 and N2,700,000, Dupe’s brownish colour, which exudes periodic flavour asserts the artist’s strong relationship with collectors who are hardly fed up of portrait paintings by the artists.

Although it comes second on the top of the sales, a drawing Female Study by Barber has a higher value of appreciation. Estimated at N450, 000, the 1981 pencil on paper portrait sold for far higher amount, confirming the resilience of the masters.

Traditional wood sculpture appears to be making a gradual come back, so suggests the recent impressive auction records of artists of the chiseling medium. Ugbine’s sale at TKMG auction came after Bunmi Babatunde’s series Gymanistis have been making both Nigerian and world records.

Oshinowo has been having a steady rise at TKMG auctions, depending of the value of each work. For example, three auctions back, the auction house recorded Oshinowo’s Royal Procession (32 x 60 in, 2011) sold for N3.9 million.

For about a week, the preview of TKMG auction held at Terra Kulture Mulitupurpose Hall, Victoria Island, Lagos.  “Over the years, the auction house has sold works from artists like Ben Enwonwu, El Anatsui, Ben Osawe, Erhabor Emokpae, Lamidi Fakeye to mention a few,” Ronke Akinyele, Curator at Terra Kulture Art Gallery, stated. “We hope to have many art professionals and many visitors attend the art auction and we believe it is an essential place for professionals, collectors and artists to meet.”

The auction featured 90 artworks cutting across various media, artists and countries. TKMG auction was conceived in 2010 to create a platform for promoting the best of African art with primarily focus on Nigeria.

Other works of masters featured included features works of Bruce Onobrakpeya, Ablade Glover, among the old masters. And as the auction house is responsible for promoting emerging artists, the sales included the works of Olawunmi Banjo, Olumide Onadipe and Oyewole Olufemi, among other young artists.
Sponsored by Accees Bank, TKMG auction is one of the three auctions on Nigerian and African art, which hold yearly from different auction houses - three in Lagos and one in London. The auctions have raised the value of African art, creating a growing community of art market. Three years ago, a gathering on African art market had asked participants: Art As an Alternative Investment? The forum, which was organised by Ben Enwonwu Foundation (BEF), featured as discussants Amb. Arthur Mbanefo; top art collector, Omooba Yemisi Shyllon; initiator of The Arts Collector Series, Sandra Mbanefo-Obiago; lawyer and notable collector, Femi Akinsanya; and a Chartered Accountant, Folusho Phillips.

Monday, 18 May 2015

Tomorrow, at Bonhams, Nigerian art leads the lots

Nigerian Art is currently one of the hottest properties in the art world.  The desire for collectors to acquire these works grows every year, as does the interest from museums and opinion formers in the art world.

On 20 May, the ‘Africa Now – Modern Africa’ auction at Bonhams in London will showcase works by artists whose lives bridged the gap between Africa and Europe.

For centuries, African and European art had largely followed independent trajectories. However, in the 1950s a handful of Nigerian artists emerged who took their mainly Western art training and applied it in distinctly Nigerian context.

These were led by Ben Enwonwu (1917-1994) whose elegant bronze figure Anyanwu Simplified estimated at £60,000-90,000 is among the most highly valued items in this year’s ‘Africa Now’ sale. His painting Africa Dances 1973 also estimated at £60,000-90,000 depicts an energetic dance that could serve as a metaphor for Africa itself.

Nigerian (though UK-based) artist, Uzo Egonu (1931-1996), painted Second Poetess (£10,000-15,000) in 1981 as part of his Stateless People series that was exhibited in London at the Royal Festival Hall in 1986. A member of the 'Commonwealth generation', Egonu spent the majority of his career in exile in Britain, rising to prominence in the 1950s and 1960s.

The work of these two pioneering modernists and their compatriot Yusuf Grillo (born 1934) paved the way for contemporary artists such as the Nigerian resident artist El Anatsui (born 1934) whose use of colour and the textural qualities in his works, call to mind the brightly-coloured and textured Ghanaian fabrics and textiles. 

Monday, 11 May 2015

African art... in season of auction

By Tajuden Sowole
The month of May this year is a season of auctions for African art, particularly in Nigeria.  Three auction houses, Lagos-based Arthouse Contemporary and TKMG as well as London-based, Bonhams have been strengthening their holds on the emerging African art market in the past few weeks, towards mega buck sales in May.

Painting, Truly Hijab by master painter, Yusuf Grillo on sale at Arthouse auction tomorrow

The first of the sales was TKMG, which continued its focus on promoting young artists alongside the old masters. A joint venture of Terra Kulture and Mydrim Gallery, TKMG, on Friday, May 1 - despite the challenge in transportation across Lagos caused by fuel scarcity - held its fifth uction at Terra Kulture in Victoria Island. Lagos

Yesterday, Arthouse Contemporary started its previews towards the scheduled sales, holding tomorrow at Wheatbaker Hotel, Ikoyi, Lagos. The premiere auction house in Nigeria goes into tomorrow's sales with high hopes, having sold an estimated 1.1 billion naira worth of sales for one thousand and one hundred art pieces since 2008.
At the Bonhams end, it’s about setting world records, some of which include Ben Enwonwu, Yusuf Grillo, El Anatsui, Kolade Oshinowo, Bunmi Babatunde and Uche Okeke. For examples, such sales recorded Enwonwu, The Mirror sculptures, old for £361,250; Anatsui, New World Map, sold for £541,250; and Stern, Arab Priest
Although Bonhams hold its sales Africa Now in London - except one edition in New York, 2009 - the auction house, few weeks ago opened its preview in Lagos, at Alara Contemorary, Victoria Island, Lagos. Fifth in the editions of Africa Now, the auction still maintains its London outlet, holding the first of two sales on May 20. For the first time since 2008, Bonhams' Africa Now will hold twice in a year as the second sales is scheduled for October, also in London.
For Arthouse, its May auction features works of the usual old masters such as Ben Enwonwu, El Antasui, Ablade Glover, Akinkola Lasekan, Ben Osawe, Bruce Onobrakpeya, Lamidi Fakeye, Okpu Eze, Susan Wegner, Gani Odutokun, Yusuf Grillo, Abayomi Barber, Kolade Oshinowo, and Amon Kotei. And with 116 lots total, new entrants of contemporary artists include Justus Akeredolu, Paul Onditi, Charles Okereke, Ato Malinda Soji Adeshina, Jacqueline Souwari, Charly D’Almeida, Stanley Dudu, Samuel Tete Katcha, and Mario Kizito Kasule.
Sponsored by Standard Chartered Bank, Veuve Clicquot, and Mouton Cadet, the Arthouse auction continues its tradition of supporting charity projects, as it include four lots from Nike Okundaye, Modupe Fadugba, Tola Wewe, and Victor Ehikhamenor, “in support of Standard Chartered Bank’s Seeing is Believing, a charity which works to tackle avoidable blindness.”
 Nana Sonoiki, a sale expert at Arthouse, recalled that since 2007, when the auction house was founded, it has focused on modern and contemporary art from West Africa. “With auctions held twice a year in Lagos, Nigeria, Arthouse Contemporary aims to create awareness of the scope of contemporary art in the region, encourage international recognition towards its talented artists, and strengthen the economy of its art market.” She added that “as West Africa’s premier auction house, Arthouse Contemporary has sold over 1,100 pieces of art worth nearly eight million dollars over the past seven years.”
Noting that contemporary African art is becoming one of the fastest growing global art markets, Sonoiki assured of the quality of the 14th edition of Arthouse sales. “This edition of the auction will feature both master works from the modern period and cutting-edge contemporary art from the region’s most celebrated artists.”
During the last Arthouse auction in November 2014, two Nigerian record sales, each for painter, Kolade Oshinowo and sculptor, Bunmi Babatunde were achieved. They included Stilt Dancers (oil on canvas, 160 x 90cm, 1981) by Oshinowo b.1948 sold for N6m and a sculpture, Possibilities (Bronze, 157 X 176.5 cm, 2013) from Babatunde's gymnastic series sold for N3, 740, 000 million naira.
During a preview at Alara Contemporary, Giles Peppiatt, Director of Modern African Art at Bonhams was excited by the increasing values of African art in recent times, He boasted about the role of Bonhams in the new development. “For me personally, the two results that stand out are the sale, for £3.1m, of the oil by Irma Stern entitled Arab Priest, a world record for any African painting and then Ben Enwonwu’s, ‘The Mirror sculptures’ which sold for over £360,000,” Peppiatt stated in her presentation tagged Nigeria At The Centre Of A New Scramble For Africa. “What we have seen and continue to see is a new “Scramble for Africa”, not for land or gold or diamonds this time, but for art. The scramble I am talking about, the one centered on art, is a rather different kind of tussle and one that is making art a viable occupation for artists across Africa.”
He described the new face of African art as “revolution” that has been bringing prospect “to communities in many of the 54 countries” in Africa. However, Peppiatt noted the role of Nigeria in the art market renaissance.  Nigeria has led the way in this revolution with artists and prices that have dominated the results coming out of Africa.”
  The preview at Alara Contemporary also provided an opportunity to clear the air on the controversy over which of the two auction houses – Arthouse Contemporary or Bonhams – inspired the other in specialised auction sales of African art. Peppiat stated: “About eight years ago, a client consigned to us some paintings by Ben Enwonwu, whose work had not been offered for sale much in London and an artist I knew by repute only. One of these was a small and modest work that then sold for almost £20,000, a world record for the artist at the time.
                            Mixed media, New World Map by El Anatsui

“You might say it was a light bulb moment!   It was following this auction that it was decided that it would be worthwhile holding a specialist auction devoted entirely to Modern & Contemporary African Art.
“That decision paid off almost immediately with a first auction that captured the attention of the international art market. In the following years, volumes and values rocketed and as we promoted this art, the art market responded strongly and soon the auctions were grossing well over £1 million and we were creating many new world records.”
  Three years ago, a gathering on African art market had asked participants: Art As an Alternative Investment? The forum, which was organised by Ben Enwonwu Foundation (BEF), featured as discussants Amb. Arthur Mbanefo; top art collector, Omooba Yemisi Shyllon; initiator of The Arts Collector Series, Sandra Mbanefo-Obiago; lawyer and notable collector, Femi Akinsanya; and a Chartered Accountant, Folusho Phillips.
 In his presentation, Peppiatt submitted that art could be a good investment, but cautioned that, “good judgement and fortune are both needed in equal measure.”
  Arguing that Art should not be “solely regarded as an investment,” he cited examples of works sold at record prices across the world, but which were bought for enjoyment derived from the aesthetics and not necessarily for investment.
Peppiatt stated: “For the long term, art can be the best investment that a collector or individual can make.  If astutely bought, correctly maintained and properly sold, the returns will easily outstrip any other asset class.”
  Shortly before Arthouse Contemporary had its 10th edition of auctions two years ago, Mrs Kavita Chellaram shared her journey in art appreciation passion, which led to the auction house’s maiden sales in 2008. She recalled her dissatisfaction with the status of Nigerian art market over the decades. She went about looking for reason for this and what was wrong in the art market. Nigerian artists, she discovered, were devaluing their work, “despite having such a wonderful pool of creativity, doing fantastic works.” In fact, she disclosed that then, all sort of barter arrangements were going on such as ‘bring five or 10 works and get a used-car.”
With the first auction in 2008, “the story has changed now,” she said.  “Art auctions come with documentation of who sold what and for what price. An artist can say, ‘my price is N1.5m. check the art auction catalogues. So, between the first auction and the ninth, consistency has been established as some artists’ prices have gone up because of popularity over the years.”
The Arthouse debut auction produced a record sale of N9.2million (hammer price) for Bruce Onobrakpeya’s panel work titled, Greater Nigeria, with another record added in 2012 when Ben Enwonwu’s bronze, Anyanwu, sold for N28 million (hammer price), the tempo is still going strong, and it does appear that there is no going back.