By Tajudeen Sowole
Despite the current slowdown of the economy, art has again proven its resilience as two Nigerian masters, Ben Enwonwu (1921-1994) and Yusuf Grillo born 1934, each made record sales with their paintings during art auction in Lagos on Monday night.
For Enwonwu, it was a 1990 painting titled Obitun Dancers sold for N46 million naira during the 16th edition of the Arthouse Contemporary auction. With the sale at The Wheatbaker Hotel, Ikoyi, Enwonwu, who was the first African artist to sculpt the Queen of England, Elizabeth II in 1956, is still the highest priced Nigerian artist on the secondary art market. Prior to the May 2016 edition of Arthouse auction, the same artist held Nigerian art auction record with sculpture titled Anyanwu, sold for over N28 million naira in 2012.
Also, another master, Grillo, born 1934 made his Nigerian record sale with a 1999/2002-dated painting, Threatened Innocence, which was sold for N16 million. Interestingly, both sales were achieved via telephone biddings on a night when there seemed to be more buyers aiming for premium prices.
More interesting, it was a night dominaated by premuim sales of Enwonwu: two watercolour on paper paintings, Haze and African Dance Ensemble dated 1972 and 1960 were each sold for N8 million naira.
From a metal foil by master pritmaker Bruce Onobrakpeya, Greaater Nigeria sold for N9.2 at Arthouse Contemporary's maiden edition in 2008, to Enwonwu's Anyanwu and now Obitun Dancers, all by the same auction house, art has been consistent in contributing to the Nigerian economy. In fact, Arthouse's November 2015 auction held at the same venue recorded N130, 611, 250 million naira, which was a rocord total sales for the auction house. As at the time of going to press, the total sales for the May 2016 sales was not available. But with so many premuim sales recorded, it would not be a surprise if the figure beat the previous edition.
The 100 lots on sales for the auction included works by Demas Nwoko, Onobrakpeya, Ato Delaquis, Kolade Oshinowo, Abayomi Barber, Gani Odutokun, Ben Osawe, and Akinola Lasekan. Also on display were pieces by Rom Isichei, Peju Alatise, Sokari Douglas Camp, Ndidi Dike and Modupe Fadugba as well as that of non-Nigerian artists such as Ghanaian master, Ablade Glover, Dominique Zimkpe, Paul Onditi, Kofi Agorsor, Mohammed Abba Gana, Paa Joe and Leonce Raphael Agbodjelou, among others.