Saturday 28 April 2012

At Lagos auction, young artists’ rating soars

 By Tajudeen Sowole

Although the old masters are still dominating the top sales of art market, young artists had impressive outing at the second joint auction of Terra Kulture-Mydrim held in Lagos recently.

IN the top-10 list of about 60 percent sales from 99 lots, two artists, Peter Akinwunmi (b. 1973) and Peju Alatise (b. 1975), were among the first five. In fact, Akinwunmi’s work, Big Market Day, mixed media, 85 x 120 cm, 2011, sold at N2 million is the second biggest sale of the night after Ben Enwonwu’s Royal Dance, Benin oil on canvas, 1970, which was bought at N4.6m.

At N1.8m, Alatise’s All Coming Together, mixed media, 25 x 25 cm, 2012, is the fourth highest sold. Another work of Alatise, Where Is Her Mother? 120 x 220 cm, 2011, came seventh at N1.5m. The two works featured in the artist’s solo art exhibition titled Material Witness, held at Nike Art Gallery, last month.

Other masters in the top 10 include Kolade Oshinowo (b. 1948), The Red Gelle, oil on canvas, 96 x 77 cm, 2011, N1.8m and Princess oil on canvas, 1986, 85 x 85 cm, N1.3m; Abayomi Barber (b.1928), Ali Mai Goro, bronze, 43 cm, 2012, N1.5m and Ola bronze 53 cm, 2011, N1.5m; Muri Adejimi (b. 1958), Igunnu, oil on canvas, 142.5 x 82.5 cm, 2010, N1m, 350, 000; Ben Osawe (b. 1931-2007): Untitled bronze, 52.5 cm, 1999, N1m.    
General Manager of Terra Kulture, Joseph Udoh Umoibon (left) and auctioneer, Prince (Omooba) Yemisi Shyllon during the art auction in Lagos… recently
   Since 2008 when art auctions started adding value to the contemporary Nigerian art, this is the second time young artists are making stronger showing commercially. First was ArtHouse Contemporary’s auction in April 2009 when Nnena Okore, Chidi Kwubiri, Rom Isichei and Diseye Tantua were in the top five.

Similar pattern almost recur at the Terra Kulture-Mydrim auction; it was a night the taste of the collectors tilted towards younger artists as old favourites such as Bruce Onobrakpeya, Uche Okeke, Nike Okundaye and Akinola Lasekan were not so lucky. Onobrakpeya’s Panel of 4, plastocast 156 x 213 cm, 2011, estimated at N3. 5m; Okeke’s Odi, pen and ink on paper, 37.5 45 cm, 1983, at N1m; Okundaye’s Bumper Harvest, oil on canvas, 152.6 x 240 cm, 1995, with asking price of N1.2m; Lasekan’s Portrait of Chief J.D. Akeredolu, oil on canvas, 170 x 120 cm at N2.5m were all returned.  

The return of these and few other works of masters was a shift in the estimation of bookmakers, art brokers and analysts. Perhaps a new generation of collectors, are pointing to a fresh direction in Nigeria’s art valuation? Bisi Silva, curator and director of Centre for Contemporary Art (CCA), Lagos, in her response noted that some of the new collectors emerging in the art auction era appear not to have “enough information about the masters.” She argued that art dealers and galleries need to do more in the area of educating their clients and not to take it for granted, for example, that Okeke’s work is well known.”

Few days after the auction, the auctioneer, Omooba (Prince) Yemisi Adedoyin Shyllon had a different opinion. He said, it’s not enough to like a work or a particular artist, “if you cannot afford to buy what you like in a master, you might as well as go for a younger artist.”

  If Lagos collectors at the just held auction thought some of the masters’ works were on the high side, particularly in the case of Onobrakpeya, the same artist’s work, of similar size, and medium was bought, even at higher price during the Abuja auction, last December. His Sahelian Masquerade Panel 4’, etching 59 x 87 inch (1987) was the highest at the Abuja auction, at N4 million.

  With a total sale of N38, 125, 000, Terra Kulture-Mydrim’s second auction in one year showed a slight drop in number of sales compared to the Abuja outing. In Abuja, about 70 percent sale was recorded.
Ben Enwonwu’s Royal Dance, Benin

Few days before the Lagos auction, the proprietress of Mydrim Gallery, Mrs Sinmidele Ogunsanya had hinted that there would be another auction in Abuja before the end of the year. She explained that her gallery’s partnership with Terra Kulture was not “really about selling, but promoting the culture of art collecting and awareness.”

  The General Manager of Terra Kulture, Joseph Udoh Umoibon noted that, art auction “is making artists to be more discipline and hard working.”

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