African Art Online: Results of Three Auctions and More News

Friday, 17 April 2020

With the reported boost to sales at African art auctions due to digital auctions, which is supposed to have opened them to a new, younger audience—around 30% of bidders at the last Sotheby’s African Art sale were new to Sotheby’s and under 40 years old, I thought it will be interesting to look at the results of three main African art sales that held in March 2020.

Arthouse Contemporary Affordable Art Auction
Held: 7 March 2020
Featured: 103 lots
Total sales: N35,762,500 ($99,340)
Top lots:

  • Boy with Purple Umbrella (2019) by Rom Isichei sold at N1,233,750
  • Ewa (2019) by Segun Aiyesan sold N1,233,750
  • Delineation (2017) by Rom Isichei sold at N1,116,250

Auction previous total sales: N27,047,750 from 97 lots in February 2019 and N26,668,000 from 107 lots in March 2018.

Bonhams Modern & Contemporary African Art Auction
Held: 18 March 2020
Featured: 111 lots
Total sales: £1,770,000 (about $2,100,000)
Top lots:

  • Watussi Chief’s Wife (1946) by Irma Stern sold at £447,062
  • Still life (1965) by Demas Nwoko sold £187,562
  • Ogolo by Ben Enwonwu sold at £87,562
  • Still life of roses and earthenware by Irma Stern sold at £87,562

Auction previous total sales: $2,446,392 from 81 lots in October 2019.

Sotheby’s Modern & Contemporary African Art Sale
Held: 27 to 31 March 2020
Featured: 107 lots
Total sales: £2,359,375
Top lots:

  • Grape Packer by Irma Stern sold at £435,000
  • View across the Vineyard by Irma Stern sold at £250,000
  • Mangbetu Children by Irma Stern sold at £250,000
  • Sefi by Ben Enwonwu sold at £250,000

Auction previous total sales: £4,002,750 (about $5,100,000) from 103 lots in October 2019.


James Barnor, Wedding Portrait at Nii Ayi Holy Trinity Cathedral Accra (1970s). Courtesy of Nubuke Foundation
James Barnor, Wedding Portrait at Nii Ayi Holy Trinity Cathedral Accra (1970s). Courtesy of Nubuke Foundation

INSTALLATION VIEW OF JAMES BARNOR’S RETROSPECTIVE. Contemporaryand goes behind closed doors to give us a peak at the retrospective of the Ghanaian pioneer photographer at Nubuke Foundation in Accra. Along with his contemporaries such as Seydou Keïta in Mali and Rashid Mahdi in Sudan, Barnor started his career by opening a photographic portrait studio in the early 1950s. [C&]

GODFRIED DONKOR ON BATTLE ROYALE. In this interview with Good Sport Magazine, Donkor talks about his interests, work and black boxing legends of the 18th century. His last exhibition, Battle Royale: The Last Man Standing Part 1, held at Gallery 1957 in August 2019. [PDF]

HOW ELIAS SIME EMERGED AS ONE OF AFRICA’S LEADING CONTEMPORARY ARTISTS. Last year, the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art honoured the Ethiopian artist, Sime, at its 4th annual African Art Awards; he was shortlisted for the Hugo Boss Prize, and commissioned by the Ethiopian Prime Minister to construct two parks—one of it at the palace. Five years ago, Sime, who had been working in Addis Ababa since the 1990s, was practically unknown. [Artnet]

PRICES OF WORKS BY SALAH ELMUR AND TAHIR KARMALI AT CIRCLE ART GALLERY. The East African gallery located in Nairobi is showing, online, images and prices of works of the Sudanese artist, Elmur, and Keyan artist, Karmali, that were featured at Art Dubai 2020. [Circle Art Gallery]

1-54 CONTEMPORARY VISITS KEN NWADIOGBU’S STUDIO. The Nigerian multidisciplinary artist, who won the prize for Arts by The Future Awards Africa in 2019, has been featured in the studio visit series by 1-54 Contemporary African Art. In the short video, Nwadiogbu talks about his current composition. [1-54]


Featured Image: Portrait of a girl wearing a headscarf (1955) by Akinola Lasekan sold for £43,812 at Bonhams Modern & Contemporary African Art Auction on 18 March 2020.