Saturday 22 November 2014

How auction records of Oshinowo, Babatunde expanded the masters’ club

By Tajudeen Sowole
With two Nigerian record sales, each for painter, Kolade Oshinowo and sculptor, Bunmi Babatunde at the November 2014 auction of Arthouse Contemporary, held at The Wheatbaker, Ikoyi, Lagos, the number of top selling masters in the secondary art market is now on the increase. Since art auctions became regular features in Nigerian art calendar, six years ago, artists whose works made the top of the five sales were always predictable.

A painting Stilt Dancers (oil on canvas, 160 x 90cm, 1981) by Kolade Oshinowo
Most often, the usual stars at auctions included Ben Enwonwu (1934-1996), El Anatsui b. 1944, Bruce Onobrakpeya b. 1932, Demas Nwoko b. 1934 and Yusuf Grillo b. 1934. Each of these masters has recorded several sales that range from over N9million naira to over N25 million naira per work. But Stilt Dancers (oil on canvas, 160 x 90cm, 1981) by Oshinowo b.1948 sold for N6m and a sculpture, Possibilities (Bronze, 157 X 176.5 cm, 2013) from Babatunde's gymnastic series sold for N3, 740, 000 million naira, brings two additional names to join the list of masters in the top sales, at least for now. Oshinowo and Babatunde's sales are the artists' auction records in Nigeria. For Babatunde, his world auction record remains Possibilities,  (ebony wood, 255 x 16.5 x 42cm, 2014) sold for (£31,250) at the last Bonhams Africa Now auction, London.  Until the Arthouse’s November 2014 auction, a painting titled Two Sisters by Oshinowo was sold for £43,000 at the 2013 Bonham's auction

However, the big masters continue to dominate, according to the results received from the auction house. El Anatsui recorded a N12, 540, 000 sale for his sculpture, Mask (manganese body and clay, 30.5 cm, 1978); Onobrakpeya's Totems of the Delta (copper foil rely on board, 156 x 201 cm, 2003), for N4, 6 20, 000); and Ablade Glover's Purple Townscape (oil on canvas, 122 x 122 cm, 2013) sold for N2, 640, 000.

 For ArtHouse and the community of art, results of the 13th edition suggest that the rise in market value of art in Nigeria has come to stay, and can only increase subsequently. From N112, 769,000 million of total sale recorded by the auction house in November last year’s sales to N86 million naira last May and at the November 2014 edition, N100, 957, 500, the Nigerian secondary art market keeps the ascendancy going.

In the Stilt Dancers, Oshinowo depicts the angere act of balancing, a form of entertainment and cultural events that used to be common on the streets of Lagos in the 1970s and 80s. Apart from the darkened figures in red toning, the work emits a monochromatic look, strengthening its rarity for an Oshinowo piece. It's quite a distance from the kind of figural work that the prolific painter is known for in the last one and half decade.
 Babatunde's increasing rating on the secondary art market appears like a good omen for other sculptors of contemporary periods who sticks to the traditional styles and forms. From exhibitions to art competitions and auctions, there has been a kind of apathy to traditional sculpture works lately.

Possibilities (Bronze, 157 X 176.5 cm, 2013) from Babatunde
At its thirteenth edition, the Arthouse auction stressed that it’s not an exclusive gathering for select few known names; the twice in a year sales at Arthouse always give opportunity for young artists and new entrants. The just held sales featured nine first timers, from Nigeria and few West Africa countries.

Continuing its commitment to Corporate Social Responsibility three charity lots were sold at a total of N1.4 million hammer prices.

Ahead of the auction, Mrs Kavita Chellaram, the CEO, announced the auction house's Arthouse Foundation. The foundation, she disclosed would function via a residency-based program that has been designed to provide a platform for artists to expand their practice and experiment with new art forms and ideas. The direction, she added, will be aided by establishing a network that supports cross-cultural exchange between Nigerian and international artists, which “embraces contemporary art as an educational model to engage communities, promote social dialogue, and advance the critical discourse of artistic practices.”

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