Tuesday 14 May 2013

Tenth auction: Enwonwu, Anatsui go head-to-head

By Tajudeen Sowole
TRUE to predictions, the race for the most-priced art at the 10th Arthouse auction was between El Anatsui’s wood panel Lanh and Ben Enwonwu’s figural wood piece Untitled.

Held at The Wheatbaker Hotel, Ikoyi, Lagos, few nights ago, Lanh was running away with the top of the 121 lots of the auction after it sold for N12 million, but minutes later, bidding for the slim figure wood piece by the late Enwonwu started building up from an asking price, less than the rival’s, until it also stopped at N12 million.

With this result, the two foremost West African artists keep strengthening their lead at home and the Diaspora, making the Ghanaian-born and Nsukka, Nigeria-based artist, Anatsui recorded a third consecutive place at the top of auctions in Lagos and London in the last one year. At the 2012 edition of Bonhams’ Africa Now, London sales Anatsui’s New World Map sold for £541, 250 ($850,544), and also led the top sales in Lagos last November at Arthouse’s auction when his Cloth Series VI (Oil on wooden panels, 132 x 262 cm.), went for N11.4 million.    

El Anatsui’s Lanh ( 2003-13, Emulsion paint and gouache
on wooden panel). From asking price of N12,000,000-15,000,000, but sold for N12, 000, 000

However, as much as the art auctions in Lagos have helped in restoring some level of provenance to a largely record-barren Nigerian art space, through catalogues, more still need to be done.

Sometimes works of departed masters such as Enwonwu, Aina Onabolu, Ben Osawe, Akinola Lasekan, Simon Okeke and others were featured with little or no text on provenance. And it often got so low when some of these works are tagged Untitled, an indication that some part of the provenance were lost in transit. Indeed, few works, originally come with blank titles, but the increasing number of Untitles on Lagos’ secondary market space is worrisome.

For instance, nearly all the works of Ben Osawe (1931 -2007) sold at different auctions in Lagos were Untitled. And for a work of great aesthetic rendition as the Enwonwu’s wood piece sold few nights ago, Untitled appeared like a big loss of education value supposedly imbedded in the work.

And in the case of Anatsui’s Lanh, an assemblage of panels in wood dated 2003-2013, it would have been more interesting, for the sake of documentation, to attach some few lines of text, particularly for a work done over a period of 10 years during when the artist was perceived to have rested his panel period.

However, the entire results of the Arthouse’s 10th auction, which had more than 95 per cent sale, stressed the growing secondary market in Nigeria. More importantly, the quality of works, across generations of artists featured also indicated that standard was getting higher as young artists such as Ade Adekola, Peju Alatise, Segun Aiyesan, Victor Ehikhamenor, Chidi Kwubiri and Kainebi Osahenye proved that the young and middle generation of Nigerian creative professionals cannot wait to become masters of tomorrow.

Ben Enwonwu’s Untitled (1959, Wood, 135 cm. (53 in.). From asking price of 13,000,000-15,000,000, but sold for N12, 000, 000

And from across the borders, works of ten Ghanaian artists also featured as most of the works made impressive sales with master, Ablade Glover’s mixed media on board titled Market People led with N1.7m.

For the Standard Chattered Bank-sponsored charity section of the auction, the Seeing Is Believing project was over N2 million richer as four works were sold to support an estimated “80 per cent curable blindness of 4.5 million blind Nigerians”.      

Top Ten of 121 lots from Arthouse Contemporary Auction, May 13, 2013

1. El Anatsui (b.1944)
    Lahn, Emulsion paint and gouache on wooden panels,
    120 x 312.3 cm. (47 x 123 in,2003-13}          N12 million Naira
    Ben Enwonwu (1917-1994)
    Untitled, wood {135 cm. (53 in., 1959}             N12m
2. Ben Enwonwu
    Storm at Umunede
    [oil on board, 76 x 101.5 cm. (30 x 40 in. 1978) N7m
3. Ben Enwonwu
    {oil on canvas, 61 x 92 cm. (24 x 36 in.1972)     N4m
4  Ben Enwonwu
    Untitled                                                                N3. 6m
5. Erahbor Emokpae
    Yin and Yang {oil on board, 1963}                      N2.5m
6. Peju Alatise
    Nigerian Women
    Mixed media on canvas
   {170 x 170 x 30.5 cm. (67 x 67 x 12,  2012}        N2.4m
7. Bruce Onobrakpeya (b.1932)
    Esirigbo Bridal Panel I
    Acrylic on canvas, 197 x 152.5 cm. 77½ x 60 in)  N2.2m
8. Ben Enwowu
   Torso of A Man
   Wood {55 cm}                                                         N1.9m
9. Rom Isichei,  b.1966
    Oil on canvas
    112 x 137 cm. (44 x 54 in.)                                     N1.8m
10. Abiola Akintola, b. 1960
      Fear Not
     {Copper, 69 x 59 cm, 2011-2012}                        N1.7m
    Ablade Glover, b. 1939
    Market People
    {Mixed media on board, 
     122 x 152.5 cm. (48 x 60 in)                                 N1.7m

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