SOTHEBY’S LONDON has held four sales dedicated to modern and contemporary African art and tapestries by El Anatsui have topped three of them, including the most recent on April 2. A 10-foot sculptural tapestry composed of aluminum bottle caps and copper wire, “Zebra Crossing 2” (shown above) was made in 2007 and exceeded expectations. The lot sold for nearly $1.5 million (including fees), significantly more than its estimate of $717,750-$978,750.

Ghanaian-born, Nigeria-based Anatsui is arguably Africa’s most critically recognized and internationally celebrated contemporary artist. He currently has a major solo exhibition co-curated by the late Okwui Enwezor (1963-2019) and Chika Okeke-Agulu at Haus der Kunst. “El Anatsui: Triumphant Scale” is on view at the Munich museum through July 28. Next month, his work will be presented for the first time at the Venice Biennale in Ghana’s inaugural pavilion.

After announcing a new department focused on modern and contemporary African art, Sotheby’s held its first auction on May 16, 2017, with Anatsui’s “Earth Developing More Roots” (2011) topping the results. An early, Warhol-inspired self-portrait by Njideka Akunyili Crosby yielded the highest price at the second sale on March 28, 2018. Anatsui returned to the No. 1 spot in the third sale on Oct. 16, 2018, and again earlier this month.

Sotheby’s latest sale of modern and contemporary African art in London featured 75 lots, including works by 44 artists from 14 countries across Africa. According to Sotheby’s, 96 percent of the works were presented at auction for the first time and buyers from the African continent represented 70 percent of sales (in terms of value, not lots).

In addition to Anatsui’s tapestry, works by Hassan El Glaoui of Morocco and Alexander Skunder Boghossian, an Ethiopian artist, were among the auction’s top lots. Congolese artists Chéri Samba and Eddy Kamuanga Ilunga also ranked high. Notably, “Palm” (2016), a figurative painting by Kamuanga Ilunga, sold for $106,031, more than twice the estimate ($32,625-$45,675) and an artist record. Kamuanga Ilunga is only 28 years old.

    TOP 5 LOTS (fees included)

    Lot 8: El Anatsui, “Zebra Crossing 2 ” (2007). | $1,428,975 (1,095,000 British Pounds)
    Lot 33: Hassan El Glaoui, “La Sortie du Roi” (n.d., acquired 2005). | $179,438 (137,500 British Pounds)
    Lot 59: Chéri Samba, “J’Aime la Couleur” (2005). | $122,344 (93,750 British Pounds)
    Lot 68: Eddy Kamuanga Ilunga, “Palm” (2016). | $106,031 (81,250 British Pounds) RECORD
    Lot 39: Alexander Skunder Boghossian, “Harvest Scrolls” (1983). | $81,563 (62,500 British Pounds) RECORD

 


Lot 68: EDDY KAMUANGA ILUNGA (b. 1991, Congolese), “Palm,” 2016 (acrylic and oil on canvas, 150 x 150 cm. / 59 x 59 inches). | Estimate $32,625-$45,675 (25,000-35,000 British Pounds). Sold for $106,031 (81,250 British Pounds) including fees. RECORD

 

Highlights of the sale also included a number of artist records. Eleven artists, all men, established new records, Hassan El Glaoui, Alexander Skunder Boghossian, Ablade Glover, and Abdoulaye Aboudia Diarrassouba, among them.

    ARTIST’S RECORDS (fees included)

    Lot 2: Ablade Glover, “Market Scene” (2014). | $34,256 (26,250 British Pounds)
    Lot 10: J.D. ‘Okhai Ojeikere, “Untitled Hairstyles Series” (circa 1980). | $9,788 (7,500 British Pounds)
    Lot 11: J.D. ‘Okhai Ojeikere, “Modern Suku, Hairstyles Series” (1979). | $14,681 (11,250 British Pounds) Previous record surpassed twice
    Lot 25: Abdouleye Aboudia Diarrassouba, Untitled (n.d.). | $48,938 (37,500 British Pounds) Sold for more than twice the estimate
    Lot 29: Omar Ba, Untitled (n.d.). | $30,994 (23,750 British Pounds)
    Lot 33: Hassan El Glaoui, “La Sortie du Roi” (n.d., acquired 2005). | $179,438 (137,500 British Pounds)
    Lot 34: Salah Elmur, “The Family Portrait” (2017). | $29,362 (22,500 British Pounds)
    Lot 38: Hussein Shariffe, “Birth and Death of the Stars” (1995-96). | $16,313 (12,500 British Pounds)
    Lot 39: Alexander Skunder Boghossian, “Harvest Scrolls” (1983). | $81,563 (62,500 British Pounds)
    Lot 44: Malangatana Ngwenya, “Esperando Da Paz (Waiting for Peace)” (1995). | $21,206 (16,250 British Pounds)
    Lot 47: Ernesto Shikhani, Untitled (1992). | $7,341 (5,625 British Pounds)
    Lot 68: Eddy Kamuanga Ilunga, “Palm” (2016). | $106,031 (81,250 British Pounds) Sold for more than twice the estimate

Sotheby’s modern and contemporary African art sales are directed by Hannah O’Leary, who established the London-based department in 2016. She came from Bonhams where she inaugurated departments dedicated to South African art in 2006 and modern and contemporary African art in 2009.

Bonhams next sale is May 2 in New York. Coinciding with the 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair and Frieze New York, the event is the first modern and contemporary African art auction Bonhams has presented in the United States since 2010. The sales are usually held in London. CT

 

TOP IMAGE: Installation view of “Zebra Crossing 2” (2007) by El Anatsui. | via Sothebys

 

FIND MORE about how artists and their estates might benefit directly from the sale of their work on the secondary market through artist resale royalties

FIND MORE about the in house approach Aspire Art Auctions in South Africa is taken to paying artist royalties

 

BOOKSHELF
“Contemporary African Art Since 1980” is co-authored by Okwui Enwezor and Chika Okeke-Agulu.
“El Anatsui: Art and Life” was published by Prestel and “El Anatsui: When I Last Wrote to You about Africa” accompanied the artist’s first career retrospective in 2011-12. Also consider “Africa under the Prism: Contemporary African Photography from LagosPhoto Festival” and the exhibition catalog for “The Divine Comedy: Heaven, Purgatory and Hell Revisited by Contemporary African Artists,” which featured more than two dozen artists, including Nicholas Hlobo, Pascale Marthine Tayou, and Dominique Zinkpè, whose works were offered in the Sotheby’s sale. Authored by Ugochukwu-Smooth C. Nzewi with contributions by El Anatsui and Nnenna Okore, among others, “Second Careers: Two Tributaries in African Art” is forthcoming in 2020.

 


Lot 2: ABLADE GLOVER (b. 1934, Ghanaian), “Market Scene,” 2014 (oil on canvas, 122 x 152 cm. / 48 x 59 3/4 inches). | Estimate $15,660-$23,490 (12,000-18,000 British Pounds). Sold for $34,256 (26,250 British Pounds) including fees. RECORD

 


Lot 6: IBRAHIM MAHAMA (b. 1987, Ghanaian), Untitled in Two Parts, n.d. acquired from artist in 2013 (Dutch wax printed fabric and mixed media, 230 x 245 cm. / 90 1/2 x 96 1/2 inches together). | Estimate $19,575-$26,100 (15,000-20,000 British Pounds). Sold for $35,888 (27,500 British Pounds) including fees

 


Lot 8: EL ANATSUI (b. 1944, Ghanaian), “Zebra Crossing 2,” 2007 (aluminum bottle caps and copper wire, 226 x 325 cm. / 89 x 128 inches). | Estimate $717,750-$978,750 (550,000-750,000 British Pounds). Sold for $1,428,975 (1,095,000 British Pounds) including fees

 


Lot 9: EL ANATSUI (b. 1944, Ghanaian), Untitled, 1991 (tropical hardwoods and tempera,
48.5 x 133 cm. / 19 x 52 1/4 inches together). | Estimate $39,150-$65,250 (30,000-50,000 British Pounds). Sold for $65,250 (50,000 British Pounds) including fees

 


Lot 11: J.D. ‘OKHAI OJEIKERE (1930-2014, Nigerian), “Modern Suku, Hairstyles Series,” 1979 (silverprint, printed 2000, 44.5 x 45cm. / 17 1/2 x 17 3/4 inches, image; 60.7 x 51cm. / 23 3/4 x 20 inches, sheet). | Estimate $3,915-$6,525 (3,000-5,000 British Pounds). Sold for $14,681 (11,250 British Pounds) including fees. RECORD

 


Lot 13: NNENNA OKORE (b. 1975, Nigerian), “Memory Lane,” n.d. (handmade paper, burlap and dye, 137.16 x 121.92 x 17.78 cm. / 54 by 48 by 7 inches). | Estimate $7,830-10,440 (6,000-8,000 British Pounds). Sold for $9,800 (7,500 British Pounds) including fees

 

FIND MORE about Chicago-based Nnenna Okore on her website. Born in Australia and raised in Nigeria, she has exhibited internationally. In her bio, she notes that in her work she “romanticizes nature’s sublimity and the essence of life.” Okore is a professor of art at North Park University in Chicago, where she chairs the art department and teaches courses in art theory and sculptural practices. She also states that she is “currently working on multiple environmental engagements and collaborations in Chicago and Nigeria.”

 


Lot 17: UZO EGONU (1931-1996, Nigerian), “Woman Reading,” 1978 (oil on canvas, 142 x 106.5 cm. / 55 3/4 x 42 inches). | Estimate $15,660-$23,490 (12,000-18,000 British Pounds). Sold for $57,094 (43,750 British Pounds) including fees

 


Lot 22: ROMUALD HAZOUMÉ (b. 1962, Beninese), “Tallonnée,” 2015 (found objects, 35 x 24 x 15 cm. / 13 3/4 x 9 1/2 x 5 3/4 inches). | Estimate $15,660-$23,490 (12,000-18,000 British Pounds). Sold for $27,731 (21,250 British Pounds) including fees

 


Lot 31: SEYDOU KEITA (1915-2001, Malian), “Untitled (Twins),” 1956-57, printed in 2000 (gelatin silver print, 37.8 x 52.9 cm. / 15 x 21 inches, image; 50.8 x 60.8 cm. / 20 x 24 inches, sheet; part of an unnumbered edition). | Estimate $3,915-$6,525 (3,000-5,000 British Pounds). Sold for $5,220 (4,000 British Pounds) including fees

 


Lot 33: HASSAN EL GLAOUI (1924-2018, Moroccan), “La Sortie du Roi,” n.d. (gouache on canvas, 120 x 180 cm. / 47 1/4 x 70 3/4 inches). | Estimate $104,400-$156,600 (80,000-120,000 British Pounds). Sold for $179,438 (137,500 British Pounds) including fees. RECORD

 

“Hassan El Glaoui depicted scenes representing the grandeur and splendour of Moroccan celebrations, often painting monarchical ceremonies,” according to the Sotheby’s lot essay. “The present work depicts the national celebration of the King’s ascension to the throne, an event still celebrated today. These important events traditionally took place in front of the old city walls with spectators dressed in traditional Moroccan white djellabas. The artist worked with few colours to provide more intensity to the scene and draw attention to its central figures.”

 


Lot 34: SALAH ELMUR (b. 1966, Sudanese), “The Family Portrait,” 2017 (acrylic on canvas, 129 x 140 cm. / 50 3/4 x 55 inches). | Estimate $15,550-$23,490 (12,000-18,000 British Pounds). Sold for $29,363 (22,500 British Pounds) including fees. RECORD

 


Lot 37: KAMALA IBRAHIM ISHAQ (b. 1939, Sudanese), “Preparation of Incense – Zar Ceremony,” 2015 (oil on canvas, 139.5 x 141 cm. / 55 x 55 1/2 inches). | Estimate $91,350-$117,450 (70,000-90,000 British Pounds). UNSOLD

 


Lot 38: HUSSEIN SHARIFFE (1934-2005, Sudanese), “Birth and Death of the Stars (oil on canvas, 140.5 x 140.5 cm. / 55 1/4 x 55 1/4 inches). | Estimate $15,660-$23,490 (12,000-18,000 British Pounds). Sold for $16,313 (12,500 British Pounds) including fees. RECORD

 


Lot 53: WILLIAM KENTRIDGE (, South African), “Head (Orange),” 1993 (drypoint with hand colouring, 102.5 x 79cm. / 40 3/4 x 31 inches (image); 120 x 92 cm. / 47 1/4 by 36 1/4 inches (sheet). | Estimate $39,150-$65,250 (30,000-50,000 British Pounds). Sold for $445,675 (British Pounds) including fees

 


Lot 59: CHÉRI SAMBA (b. 1956, Congolese), “J’aime la Couleur,” 2005 (acrylic and glitter on canvas, 120 x 150 cm. / 47 1/4 x 59 inches). | Estimate $52,200-$78,300 (40,000-60,000 British Pounds). Sold for $122,344 (93,750 British Pounds) including fees

 


Lot 65: BODYS ISEK KINGELEZ (1948-2015, Congolese), “Seattle,” n.d. (mixed media, 115 x 60 x 60 cm., 45 1/4 by 23 1/2 x 23 1/2 inches). | Estimate $19,575-$26,100 (15,000-20,000 British Pounds). Sold for $42,413 (32,500 British Pounds) including fees

 

Bodys Isek Kingelez first worked as a teacher and switched gears in 1978, pursuing a career in art in an effort to contribute in his own way to the decolonization of Africa. He makes sculptures of imagined buildings and cities, envisioning future utopian societies. Recently, the Museum of Modern Art in New York presented “Bodys Isek Kingelez: City Dreams” (2018-19). The landmark exhibition spanned his career, presenting rarely seen works, “from early single-building sculptures, to spectacular sprawling cities, to futuristic late works, which incorporate increasingly unorthodox materials.” The exhibition was the first retrospective of Kingelez’s work in the United States and, according to Sotheby’s lot essay, “making him the first black African artist to ever enjoy a solo show at the renowned institution.”

 


Lot 75: Fréderic Trigo Piula (b. 1953, Congolese), “Fwambasi,” 1988 (mixed media on canvas, 100 x 100 cm / 39 1/4 x 39 1/4 inches). | Estimate $26,100-$39,150 (20,000—30,000 British Pounds). Sold for $52,200 (40,000 British Pounds)

 

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