Tuesday 27 November 2012

Art auction: Anatsui, Grillo rescue declining sales

By Tajudeen Sowole
Gradually, the local art market is giving Nsukka, Nigeria-based Ghanaian artist, El Anatsui, 68, the due respect his art enjoys at the international level, so suggest the results of a just concluded Lagos art auction.

ANATSUI'S Grandma’s Cloth Series VI (Oil on wooden panels, 132 x 262 cm.), lifted ArtHouse Contemporary’s ninth auction as the work was sold for N11.4 million, hammer price at The Wheatbaker Hotel, Lagos. It was estimated to sell for N8-10 million.

On a night when the sales appeared to be heading for a decline, Yusuf Grillo’s painting, Sango Worshipper (Oil on board 122 x 56 cm., 1961) estimated to fetch N7.5 -8.5 million added strength to the auction as it was sold for N7.4 million.

For Grillo, 78, it was a bounce-back four years after his Blue Moon (Oil on Board60 x 60 cm, 1966,) was bought for N8.8m and emerged as the highest sold at the second edition of the auction house’s sales in 2008. On a better day, Sango Worshippers could sell for higher value given the rare qualities of the painting: it’s red dominant, brightened by the buba, iro and gele fashion of the figure, which is a high contrast to the usual bluish toning of the artist’s work.

El Anasui's Grandma’s Cloth Series VI (Oil on wooden panels, 132 x 262 cm.)
The results of the auction give Anatsui his biggest auction record in Nigeria. The artist’s woven tapestry of flattened bottle caps, titled New World Map  (350x500cm) sold for £541, 250 at the last Bonhams’ Africa Now London auction held in May this year. It should be recalled that Anatsui’s first top of the sales at an auction in Nigeria was recorded during the Terra Kulture sales tagged Golden Jubilee Art Auction 2010 organized in partnership with Nimbus. His wood panel, lot 72, Time Window (147 x 61 cm, 2006) sold for N3.8 million.

And quite an impressive boost for photography came from George Osodi’s painterly photographic print on aluminum Eyo (C-print 120 x 179 cm. 2007) sold for N1.2m at the ninth ArtHouse auction. It’s arguably, the biggest sale a photography piece ever recorded at an auction in Nigeria. Performance of Osodi’s Eyo at the auction further challenges a section of Nigerian critics that always insists that the theme has been “too repetitive” by artists.

Since 2008 when it first made its debut on the Nigerian art market, unearthing the high value in African art, ArtHouse has been expanding the scope of the auction to more artists. In its ninth edition and sponsored by Renaissance Capital, the auction house has again stressed its commitment to keep featuring new entries for every edition. Over 15 debutants featured at the auction. Some the auction’s new debutants included Adebesin Adedamola, Alimi Adewale, Abiola Akintola, Benedict Olorunnisomo,  Chika Okeke-Agulu, Chike Obeagu, Dotun Adegbite, John Nosireme-Thomas, Lanre Ayoade, Lucy Azubuike, Billy Omabegho , Osagie Aimufia, Raqib Bashorun, Segun Ayesan, Tolu Aliki, Uche Okpa-Iroha and Wande George.

Among the debutants Akintola , 52, and a veteran designer, Omabegho, 60, made an impressive sale at N2m and N1.3m respectively. And quite a number of sales such as Kolade Oshinowo’s Prayer Time, Rom Isichei’s Rhythm Of The Season and just a few others doused anxiety as regulars and a few other hopefuls were returned unsold.

While official figure of the percentage sold from the total 111 lots were being awaited as at press time, there were indications that despite lack of higher number of large sales, the unsold may just be as minimal as less than 10 percent.
With the partnership, the sponsor of the auction Renaissance Capital – a member of the global firm, Renaissance Group – has stressed its support for Nigerian art. It should be recalled that a few months ago, Renaissance Capital sponsored a group art exhibition titled Fresh Vernacular, which focused on young artists doing new things.

Yusuf Grillo's rare painting

    Sango Worshipper (Oil on board
   122 x 56 cm. 1961)

Renaissance Capital, a leading investment bank focused on emerging markets (EM) and Africa, and has a presence in 20 countries, six of them in Africa. The firm’s global distribution of equity and debt securities and research is managed from London, New York, Moscow and Hong Kong. 

And it was not just about art mega sales for the ArtHouse and Renaissance partnership, but a sharing via charity as a part of the auction was dedicated to Ayodele Jegede Foundation. Four drawings and a painting were sold to raise funds in support of the foundation’s scholarship scheme.

One more auction early next year and ArtHouse would expectedly make it 10. So far, every outing since 2008 has brought its own uniqueness. For the ninth, it was a shift from the regular masters such as Ben Enwonwu, Bruce Onobrakpeya and Demas Nwoko. More importantly, Osodi’s Eyo strengthened the uniqueness of this edition.

Ahead of the auction, manager and specialist at ArtHouse, Nana Sonoiki had hoped for a successful outing, perhaps based on the last auction. She recalled that the previous auction held early this year recorded a total sale – including the buyer’s premium – of N106 million ($132,000).”

A total of and 97 out of 116 lots, representing 84% were sold, she added. During the auction Nwoko’s painting, Praise Singer, (1961), oil on board, 91.4 x 122 cm. was sold to a telephone bidder at N7m during Arthouse Contemporary’s eighth art auction held last April. It was a distance from Ben Enwonwu’s N28 million (£125, 000) sale of a sculpture, Anyanwu (142.2 cm., excluding the base, 1956) at the ArtHouse’s seventh edition, last year November.

The top 10 from 111 lots of the ninth ArtHouse auction (Hammer price).
 1. El Anatsui (b.1944)
   Grandma’s Cloth Series VI
   (Oil on wooden panels
   132 x 262 cm. 1992) N11.4 million
2. Yusuf Grillo (b. 1934)
    Sango Worshipper (Oil on board
   122 x 56 cm. 1961) N7.4 million.
3. Ehrabor Emokpae (1934-1984)
     Dancing Faces
    (Oil on board 82 x 57 cm. 1969) N3.2m
4. Bruce Onobrakpeya (b. 1932)
    Edokpa (Copper foil repoussé
    on board 1983-1985) N3m
    Ben Enwonwu (1917-1994)
   Agbowomowo (Oil on board
   84 x 54 cm. 1979) N3m.
5. Amon Kotei (b.1915-2011)
    Untitled (Oil on canvas 151 x 80 cm) N2.5m
    Ben Enwonwu (b.1917-1994)
    Remi (Bronze cold cast 23 cm. 1977) N2.5m
6. Demas Nwoko (b.1935)
    Indian Girl In Sari
    (Oil on paper 51 x 74 cm1965) N2m
    Uche Okeke (B.1933)
    March Of Masquerades
    (Charcoal 30.5 x 84 cm 1974.) N2m
    Abiola Akintola (B.1960)
     Believe In Yourself (Stainless steel 78 cm 2011) N2m
7. Okpu Eze (b.1932-1995)
    Fertility Figure  (Wood  25 cm 1984) N1.8m
    Kolade Oshinowo (b.1948)
   Prayer Time (Mixed media on canvas
   117 x 40 cm. 2012) N1.8m
   Abiodun Olaku (b.1958)
   Evening Enterprise
   (Oil on canvas 76 x 92 cm. 2008) N1.8m
   Rom Isichei (b.1966)
    Rhythm Of The Season (Mixed media on canvas
    140 x 255 cm. 2012) N1.8m
8. Peju Alatise (b.1975)
    Aso-Bora (Mixed media on canvas
   229 x 122 cm. 2012) N1.6m
9. Ben Enwonwu (b.1917-1994)
    Portrait Of A Black Boy
    (Watercolour, ink on card board
    42 x 27 cm) N1.5m
    Ben Osawe (b. 1931-2007)
    Untitled (Wood 22 cm. 48 in. 1993) N1.5m.
10. Billy Omabegho (b.1953)
       Homage V (Aluminium & bronze 2011) N1.3m
       Edosa Ogiugo (b.1961)
      Exchange Centre (Oil on canvas
      120 x 182 cm. 2007) N1.3m
      Alex Nwokolo (b.1963)
      Guatanamo Bay  ( Mixed media on board
     122 x 274 cm 2012) N1.3m

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