Sunday, 11 May 2014

At Lagos auction, Anatsui raises the bar

Assemblage of wood in panel titled Commercial Avenue by El Anatsui sold for 21 million naira

By Tajudeen Sowole                                      

It was a night that the Ghanaian-born sculptor, El Anatsui, dominated top of the sales, and perhaps, accounted for nearly half of the entire lots sold at the 12th ArtHouse Contemporary auction.

At hammer prices, Anatsui’s three works that led the tops of the sales made a total of over forty two million naira during the auction at The Wheatbaker, Ikoyi, Lagos.

A wood panel assemblage Commercial Avenue (wood, aluminium and house paint, 2014) for N21 million naira; a decaying tree trunk rescued by the artist’s sculptural skill and labelled Untitled sold for N14m; and a clay, floor sculpture, Unsukka Shrine bought for N7.8m.

Although none of the three works met the targeted estimate, Arthouse appeared to have bent backwards. For example, Commercial Avenue fell short of the estimated N33 to N36 million naira.

However, Anatsui’s totaled sales for three works are unprecedented for a single artist at an auction in Nigeria since the secondary market started fully in 2008.

While the Arthouse sale of N21 million for Commercial Avenue is a record for Anatsui in Nigeria, the artist’s all time auction record is still £541, 250 ($850,544) for a woven tapestry of flattened bottle caps, titled 'New World Map' sold at Bonhams’ Africa Now art auction in the U.K, two years ago.

Remember the Bruce Onobrakpeya panel of foils on wood that opened the gate of mega sales at the maiden ArtHouse auction in 2008 when sold for N9.2 million naira? Titled Greater Nigeria, what looks like a sister piece or series of the work surfaced during the auction few days ago as Cultural Industrial Economic, and sold for 7.5 million naira, without meeting the 10 million naira asking price.

Over all sales for the 111 lots, most likely, would take a record place for the auction house as nearly all the lots were sold. At the last auction, in November, total sales, including the buyer’s premium, reached N112, 769.000.00 million naira, from 80 lots recorded.

At the last outing in November, Ben Enwonwu’s bust of a Fulani Girl (fibre glass, 1967) led the top sales at N15.5m followed by a panel Ends and Means Committee by El Anatsui, picked for N12m    

Other lots that made the top ten of the 12th auction included Felling Trees, a wood plaque of Ben Enwonwu, for 7 million naira; Uturu Morning Meeting of Chiefs in old Asaba, oil on canvas by Enwonwu for N5 million naira; Country Road, also by Enwonwu, for N2.8 million naira; Kolade Oshinowo’s mixed media of painting and fabric collage, Engagement, for N2.6 million; Ben Osawe’s sculpture Untitled, N2.1m; and Akinola Lasekan’s Portrait of A Man, N2 million.

For the young artists, it was not exactly a bad outing as Ade Adekola b. 1968 and Peju Alatise b. 1975 had impressive sales. For Adekola, a photo artist, his Okada Dare Devils, Dare Angels, C-Print mounted under acrylic sold for 1.8m, and Altise’s Beautiful Minds for N1.7m.

However, the auction featured some new entrants, both young and old. These included Naomi Wanjiku Gakunga,
Modupe Fadugba, Jeremiah Quarshie, Bona Ezeudu, Tobenna Okwuosa, Dominique Zinkpe, Ini Brown, Hassan Aliyu, Yves Midahuen and Nyornuwofia Agorsor.

As the mega bucks rolled in, particularly from the sales of the predicted lead masters, the auction did not produce any surprise sales from either the young or old artists, not even from the masters. At the last auction in November, pioneer modernist, Aina Onabolu made what appeared like his record sale at auction with Portrait of Sisi Nurse, oil on canvas. Estimated at between N10 million and N12m, the work sold for N7.5m, hammer price. 

The auction house’s tradition of selling for charity was not left out of the night. It was a charity segment for Chattered Bank project, Seeing Is Believing as the works of Onobrakpeya’s Horns of Freedom,, Anthea Epelle’s Praise Tayo Olayode’s Dance Steps and  Uchay Joel Chime’s I Thought As Much were sold as charity lots.   

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