RECENT SALES AT CHRISTIE’S LONDON resulted in new auction records for British-Nigerian artist Joy Labinjo and Dallas, Texas-based Jammie Holmes, two up-and-coming artists garnering increasing attention after receiving institutional recognition. Aboudia, who splits his time between his native Abidjan, Ivory Coast, and Brooklyn, N.Y., also set a new high mark.

Labinjo’s “No Wahala” (2019) features three figures in formal wedding attire—a man and two young boys wearing white rose boutonnieres. Green botanicals float throughout the vibrant pink background. The painting was Lot 2 in the 20th Century Evening Sale on March 23, opening the auction with a record breaker. Estimated at 30,000-40,000 British Pounds, the lot sold for 150,000 British Pounds ($208,007) all results include fees), more than three times the high estimate.

 


March 23 – Lot 2: JOY LABINJO (B. 1994), “No Wahala,” 2019 (oil on canvas, 78 7/8 x 59 1/8 inches / 200.3 x 150.2 cm.). | Estimate 30,000-40,000 British Pounds. Sold for 150,000 British Pounds / $208,007 (fees included). RECORD

 

Focusing on memory and belonging and the connections between identity and race and culture, Labinjo’s practice is inspired by two decades of personal archives. When she was about 10, she began putting together albums of family photographs documenting everyday moments, gatherings of relatives, and formal celebrations, such as weddings.

The title “No Wahala” means “no problem” or no worries” in Nigerian Hausa. (It is also the name of a 2017 song by Jamaican dancehall and reggae artist Demarco, featuring Akon and Runtown.) The painting was featured in “Joy Labinjo: Our Histories Cling To Us” (2019-20) at Baltic Art Centre in Gateshead, UK, her first major institutional solo show.

“I’m really interested in portraiture, mainly because I’m very interested in people and their stories,” Labinjo said in an interview about the exhibition conducted by Rianna Jade Parker for BOMB magazine. “I’ve seen the difference in my work as I’ve invested in better quality paint and canvases. I’m looking forward to seeing how far I can push paint, texture, and color. At the forefront of my work is storytelling, and at the moment that’s with paint. I’m not sure that it will always be paint, as this is just the beginning.”

“I’m really interested in portraiture, mainly because I’m very interested in people and their stories.” — Joy Labinjo

The 53-lot evening sale also featured works by Amoako Boafo, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and Lynette Yiadom-Boakye.

A British artist who paints imaginary characters, Yiadom-Boakye’s beautiful figurative scenes are rife with mystery and suspense that leave viewers intrigued and guessing about their narratives. “The Like Above All Lovers” (2013) features a lone figure crouching at the base of a tree in lush overgrown grass, aiming a rifle into the distance at an unseen target.

The painting, which sold within the estimate (400,000-600,000 British Pounds) for 512,500 British Pounds ($710,695), was featured in the Turner Prize exhibition at the Centre for Contemporary Art Derry-Londonderry in 2013. Yiadom-Boakye was shortlisted for the prize that year (Laure Prouvost won).

 


March 23 – Lot 8: AMOAKO BOAFO (B. 1984), “Self-Portrait,” 2016 (oil on canvas laid down on board, 37 ¼ x 43 7/8 inches / 94.5 x 111.5 cm). | Estimate GBP 60,000-80,000 Pounds. Sold for 550,000 British Pounds / $762,696 (fees included)

 

Ghanaian-born Boafo is based in Vienna, Austria, the hometown of Egon Schiele (1890-1918) with whom he is often compared. Both artists work with textured surfaces. Boafo uses his fingers to paint, making visible the strokes, patterns and movement that bring to life the skin of his subjects.

Boafo’s “Self Portrait” (2017) directly references “Self-Portrait with Chinese Lantern Plant” (1912) by Schiele. The Austrian artist, who made countless self portraits, wears a black shirt against a white background in the painting. Boafo positions himself in a similar manner as Schiele, but reverses his color way. Ordinarily, Boafo pairs his subjects with white or vibrantly colored backgrounds. For the rare self-portrait, he reverses the contrast putting himself in a white shirt and employing a black background.

Boafo’s “Self Portrait” drew substantial interest, selling for 550,000 British Pounds ($762,696), nearly seven times the high estimate (60,000-80,000 British Pounds).

Following the evening sale, Christie’s held a Post-War and Contemporary Art Day Sale (March 25). Featuring 111 lots, the auction included works by Kudzanai-Violet Hwami, Holmes, and Aboudia. The sale opened with Hwami’s “Study Sisi Themba’s Post Surgery, Harare General Hospital, 2050” (2016). The reclining nude failed to find a buyer and went unsold.

The lot essay quotes the UK-based, Zimbabwean artist commenting directly on the painting. “I’ve depicted a transwoman lying on what looks like a couch, proudly posing in her new skin. In that I’m commenting on today’s cultural phenomenon but also what might be possible for Zimbabwean transgender people in the future,” Hwami said.

 


March 25 – Lot 401: KUDZANAI-VIOLET HWAMI (B. 1993), “Study Sisi Themba’s Post Surgery, Harare General Hospital, 2050,” 2016 (oil, charcoal and oilstick on paper, 59 ¼ x 78 1/8 inches / 150.4 x 198.5 cm.). | Estimate 30,000-50,000 British Pounds. UNSOLD

 

Aboudia produces dense, graffiti-style compositions. “Untitled” (2013) was a record breaker, soaring past the high estimate (15,000-20,000 British Pounds), ultimately selling for 162,500 British Pounds ($223,321).

The painting originated from Jack Bell Gallery in London. Describing Aboudia’s work, the gallery states: “Since the Ivorian civil war in 2011, his urban landscapes have been haunted by trauma; armed soldiers, ominous skulls and a populace hemmed in by danger. Recent work continues to grapple with the hardships of daily life and the social inequalities of downtown Abidjan.…Aboudia references characters from his direct neighbourhood, contemporary ‘Nouchi’ iconography and homage to more traditional forms of Vodou.”

“Untitled (Aunt)” (2020) by Holmes was the second lot in the sale. The painting set a new artist record, selling for 131,250 British Pounds ($180,375), well over twice the high estimate (35,000-55,000 British Pounds).

The figurative scene, with abstracted elements, centers around a woman in the foreground. She’s holding a church fan with what looks like an image of Martin Luther King Jr., on it. The room is grounded with black-and-white checkerboard flooring, a signature element the artist often brings into his spaces. In the background, “Rent $500 1 Bed Room” is scrawled on the wall.

“To Be Determined,” a major collection exhibition at the Dallas Museum of Art was anchored by two large-scale paintings by Holmes, one of them also featuring black-and-white checkerboard flooring. The artist, who hails from Thibodaux, La., says his work “tells the story of contemporary life for many Black families in the Deep South.” CT

 

FIND MORE Writing in The Art Newspaper, Maxwell Anderson explains Why American artists should benefit from the resale of their works

 


March 25 – Lot 402: JAMMIE HOLMES (B. 1984), “Untitled (Aunt),” 2020 (acrylic and oil pastels on canvas, 59 7/8 x 47 7/8 inches / 152 x 121.5 cm.). | Estimate 35,000-55,000 British Pounds. Sold for 131,250 British Pounds / $180,375 (fees included). RECORD

 


March 23 – Lot 4: LYNETTE YIADOM-BOAKYE (B. 1977), “The Like Above All Lovers,” 2013 (oil on canvas, 78 ¾ x 98 3/8 inches / 200 x 25 cm). | Estimate 400,000-600,000 British Pounds. Sold for 512,500 British Pounds / $700,588 (fees included)

 


March 25 – Lot 410: ABOUDIA (B. 1983), “Untitled,” 2013 (acrylic and oilstick on paper collage on canvas, 49 3/8 x 78 ¾ inches / 125.5 x 200 cm.). | Estimate 15,000-20,000 British Pounds. Sold for 162,500 British Pounds / $223,321 (fees included). RECORD

 

BOOKSHELF
“Lynette Yiadom-Boakye: Fly In League With The Night” documents the first major survey of the artist, currently on view at Tate Britain in London. “Lynette Yiadom-Boakye: Under-Song for a Cipher” was published on the occasion of her recent exhibition at the New Museum in New York.

 

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