THE art of portraitist and Nigeria’s pioneer modernist painter, Aina Onabolu, has taken a leap in the local secondary market, so suggests the artist’s impressive performance few days ago at Arthouse Contemporary auction, held at The Wheatbaker Hotel, Ikoyi, Lagos.
A total sale, including the buyer’s premium, of N112, 769.000.00 million naira from80 lots were recorded.
But his Portrait of Sisi Nurse, oil on canvas, dated 1922, and estimated at between N10 million and N12m, took off from less half and sold for N7.5m, hammer price, making an auction record for the artist.
Despite not reaching the asking price, the painting, an unidentified lady in white and rendered in semi-silhouette, leaving the face blurred, has proven that Onabolu deserves some respect.
However, Portrait of Sisi Nurse arrived at a distant third position on the top of the sales behind Ben Enwonwu’s bust of a Fulani Girl (fibre glass, 1967) sold for N15.5m and a panel Ends and Means Committee by El Anatsui picked for N12m.
It was another night of glory for the late Enwonwu as his The Drummer (fibre, 1978) sold for N13m as well as a small Untitled painting for N3m.
And as the 11th Arthouse Contemporary auction was going to end up as a night exclusive for the old masters, again, young artist, Peju Alatise (born 1975) squeezed into the top 10 of the sales with Body Parts, sold for N2m. While bookmakers expected a neck-to-neck sales between three of the masters, Enwonwu, Anatsui and Demas Nwoko, bidders thought differently: Nwoko’s painting, Senegalese Woman, with an estimated value of N9m to N10m ran out of steam midway at N5.2m and was unsold, as at hammer time.
In a charity lot, The Young Shall Grow, A Keke Napep for A Growing Nation, an installation of tricycle by painter Polly Alakija came a novelty sale: mural-like in figural rendition, the tricycle was sold for N2 million.
From Alakija’s Keke Napap, which has a star charity lot sale record for a single work at any art auction in Lagos, 50 per cent of the proceeds, according to the artist goes to Erubode House, a home for special needs children in Ijebu Ode, Ogun State, southwest Nigeria.
Few months ago, when Alakija featured the Keke Napep in a solo show titled, Here and There, and curated by Sandra Mbanefo-Obiago, at the same venue, she had expressed her passion for the strengthening of people at the grassroots.
And arguing that Nigeria as a nation can take succour in the spiritism of growth, the U.K-based artist, in a brief attached to the charity lot, states that the inspiration for the concept was drawn from the popular slogan 'The Young will Grow' written on trucks in Nigeria. In similar thought, Alakija writes, "the aspirational driver of a Keke Napep is going places". She analogises this as perhaps "the first big step towards an exciting future with a keke full of passengers from a nation that should be a celebration of our differences".
For the other four charity lots from artists Fidelis Odogwu, Kunle Adegorioye, Alimi Adewale and Tolu Aliki, it was not a bad night as the collective efforts raked in a total of N1.40m for their ailing senior colleague Oyerinde Olotu.
(Updated December 1, 2013 and April 28, 2014).