Sunday 26 April 2015

Africa Now auction goes bi-annual

By Tajudeen Sowole

After seven editions, Africa Now auction, which has been holding yearly in London, U.K since 2008 expands its sales from once to twice every year starting from next month. Organised by one of Europe's leading auction houses, Bonhams, Africa Now also has a new look in segmentation of the sales into Modern and Contemporary.

'African Woman with Gele by Yusuf Grillo
Director at Bonhams, Giles Peppiatt who was in Lagos few days ago stated that market force has compelled the auction house to expand the scope of Africa Now from once a year sale to twice. "We have a sale on May 20, which is Africa Now: Modern Africa, and another on October 15, Africa Now: Contenporary Africa" Peppiatt disclosed shortly after addressing a select guests at Alara Contemporary, Victoria Island, Lagos.  The Africa Now Contemporary, Peppiatt said, is meant to serve a section of collectors.

 Earlier, in a presentation titled Nigeria at the Centre of a New Scramble for Africa, Peppiatt noted that art from Nigeria is playing a leading role in the ongoing increase in value of African artists. He cautioned that the 21 century  scramble for Africa is not about the balkanisation of the continent that paved way for colonialism, but about the rich art of the continent. "Not for land or gold or diamonds this time, but for art. It is a rather different kind of tussle and one that is making art a viable occupation for artists across Africa." 

Recalling the journey of Africa Now auction, Peppiatt noted how "the market has changed beyond recognition in that time." His presence in Lagos, he disclosed, was to assess the last eight years and "take stock and look at the African art market; what has been achieved and what we might expect to come."

 Nigeria, he insisted,  "has led the way in this revolution with artists and prices that have dominated the results coming out of Africa." He noted that Bonhams has, since the Africa Now auction, given artists from West Africa world auction records. "We have set world records for all major artists in this field: Ben Enwonwu; Yusuf Grillo, El Anatsui, Kolade Oshinowo, Uche Okeke the list goes on and on."

Sharing the Bonhams experience in African art auction at international market, Peppiatt argued that prior to the Africa Now sales, "Modern and Contemporary African art had not really been seen in London or on the international market before and certainly had not been marketed in such a prestigious manner." Indeed, he was slightly correct, at least within the argument of lack of art market for modern and contemporary African art. However, art from Africa, particularly modernity, were not exactly strange to the west, given the exploit of Osogbo breed of artists such as Jimoh Buraimoh, Twin Seven Seven, Muraina Oyelami, among others in the 1970s/80s, across Europe and U.S.

 Arguably, the last eight years has changed the market value of African art, both in Nigeria and the International scene. QUite a lot of energy has been invested to boost the market. "With all the attendant events, such as receptions and dinners, we found that international and African collectors were delighted to view these works and even more delighted to purchase the best examples for what they perceived to reasonable prices,"Peppiatt explained.

And the prospect keeps showing bright future. "The fact is that modern and contemporary African art is today one of the hottest properties on the art block." In fact he predicted that  "Africa is the new China when it comes to art." He traced the prospect of African art to the interest by institutions of high repute based in the west.  "When the Tate, the Smithsonian and other similar institutions start openly acquiring Contemporary African Art, then one knows that something strange and wonderful has occurred and that real change is in the air." 

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