Irma Stern, William Kentridge, Marlene Dumas and even the American Andy Warhol are some of the big names whose works feature in the Aspire X PIASA Modern & Contemporary African Art auction holding today in Cape Town, South Africa. The collaboration between Aspire Art Auctions, a South African auction house and PIASA, a French auction house, represents the first time an African auction house and an European auction house would team up to present a sale of African art in Africa.
Aiming for the broadest pan-African offering, the sale features 139 artists from 27 African countries and its diaspora including Cape Verde, Mozambique, Tunisia, and São Tomé and Príncipe. More importantly, the collection includes some rare works: the 1920 painting of Baobab trees by Jacobus Hendrik Pierneef (1886–1957); Oktober 1973, Marlene Dumas’ painting that’s never been on the market; and, the lots that caught my attention, Oja Suite, 1962 and Nok Suite, 1958/59 by Uche Okeke (1933–2016).
Professor Uche Okeke, a founding member of the celebrated Zaria Art Society, is one of the most influential modern African artists of the twentieth century. His philosophy of Natural Synthesis and use of elements derived from Igbo Uli traditional drawing to forge a new aesthetic—drawing on past traditions to create contemporary forms—remains the defining style of the Nsukka School.
The Nok Suite (1958/59), representing some of Okeke’s earliest experimental drawings created in his first year at the Nigerian College of Art, Science, and Technology, Zaria, are sparely delineated, caricatured line sketches referencing the Nok culture.
The more abstract Oja Suite (1962), inspired by Okeke’s research into Igbo Uli wall painting and body drawing, was created while he was living in Abule-Oja, a suburb of Lagos, waiting for traveling papers to Munich, Germany, where he was to train in stained glass and mosaic at the Franz Meyer Studio. These drawings are his first major Uli- inspired series.
These series of pen and ink drawings are a brilliant example of Nigerian modernism and it will be instructive to see what kind of interest they generate at the auction today.
WHAT ARE THE PATTERNS IN PRICING OF ART AT FAIRS? Do people pay more for art at fairs? In its recent report, on the South African art market, Corrigall & Co. submits that “Gallerists don’t put up the price of art for fairs, they make calculated selections. As such the answer depends on which art fair, the status of the artist and the gallery that sells their art.” [Corrigall & Co]
AMOAKO BOAFO LAMENTS THE FLIPPING OF HIS WORK FOR PROFIT. The Ghanaian artist, whose portraits sold out on the first day of the last Art Basel, is not happy his work, The Lemon Bathing Suit, is up for sale at Phillips. The entrepreneur who bought it some months ago had assured that he would add it to his collection. “Now he wants to make profit from it,” Boafo complained. [Bloomberg]
REMEMBERING BISI SILVA A YEAR AFTER. A Journey through Art, a documentary film on Bisi Silva by Toyin Akinosho was screened on Wednesday, 12 February at the Centre for Contemporary Art, Yaba Lagos to commemorate the one year anniversary of the passing of the late curator and founder of the Centre. [The Nation]
THE INVESTEC CAPE TOWN ART FAIR OPENS TODAY at the Cape Town International Convention Centre. The director of the contemporary art fair talks to Bizcommunity about the curated displays, challenges, and trends in art. This 8th edition of the Investec fair, featuring over 400 artists and 93 galleries, runs from 14 till 16 February 2020. [Bizcommunity]
THE TOURING EXHIBITION ‘PRÊTE-MOI TON RÊVE’ IS NOW IN DAKAR. Prête-moi ton rêve (lend me your dream), billed as Africa’s first traveling exhibition moving through the continent itself, brings together the works of 30 artists from around 20 countries and will move through seven African cities: Casablanca, Dakar, Abidjan, Lagos, Addis Ababa, Cape Town and Marrakech. The year-long exhibition is currently at the Museum of Black Civilizations in Dakar, Senegal. [Quartz Africa]
Featured Image: Oja Suite, 1962, Uche Okeke (1933–2016)