Saturday, 23 May 2015

Bonhams' $1.3m Sale Make New World Records For Modern African Art


Bonhams sale of Modern African Art – ‘Africa Now’ – made a total £827,000 (NGN256million or US$1.3million) in London, on Wednesday  May, 20 with a number of new world records achieved.

One of the top sales, Africa Dances by Ben Enwonwu
These new records, according to Bonhams, were from Erhabor Emokpae (Nigerian, 1934-1984) ‘Eda’, sold for £10,625; Ato Delaquis, (Ghanaian, born 1945) 'Flamboyants', sold for £9,375; Bernard Matemera (Zimbabwean, 1946-2006), ‘Elephant Spirit’ sold for £7,750; and for a wooden sculpture by El Anatsui (lots 64 and 65 sold for £62,500 or $100,000 each). The superstar Ghanaian artist recently received the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement of the 56th International Art Exhibition of the Biennale di Venezia.

The top ten pictures in the sale were dominated by two names, Ben Enwonwu and Yusuf Grillo.

The most valuable item in the sale was by Nigerian artist Ben Enwonwu, an elegant bronze figure ‘Anyanwu Simplified’ which bears many similarities to the sculpture commissioned for the National Museum of Lagos in 1958. It was the top lot in the sale at £74,500. His painting 'Africa Dances' 1973 depicting an energetic dance that serves as a metaphor for Africa’s identity sold for £68,500 was the second highest price.

Giles Peppiatt, Director of African Art at Bonhams said after the sale: “Once more records fell in our Africa Now sale. The strength of demand from buyers for this newly appreciated art is growing steadily. Sales and exhibitions and media coverage of this phenomenon is helping to drive interest which is fantastic news for a whole new generation of African artists.”

When art historians look back on the 20th Century, the voices and vision of a small group of trail-blazing artists whose lives bridged the gap between Africa and Europe will be seen and heard to be hugely significant.

The ‘Africa Now’ auctions at Bonhams showcase works by these African Masters, along with many others from across the continent; Mozambique, Ghana, Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo were all represented. These pioneers lead this giant continent of 54 countries in a visual language that is increasingly being seen and acknowledged around the world.

For centuries, African and European art had largely followed independent trajectories. However, by 1950 a handful of artists emerged who were interested in bridging the gap between the two cultures.

Pioneering modernists from Nigeria, Ben Enwonwu (1917-1994), Uzo Egonu (1931-1996) and Yusuf Grillo (born 1934), were instrumental in orchestrating this change that paved the way for the next generation who are truly international in their aesthetic and exhibit their work all over the world.

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