Tuesday, 8 April 2008

Going, Going, Gong!!! N9.2m

Congratulations to Baba Bruce Onobrakpeya as he is fondly called in Nigeria for the record price of N9.2m for a single work. After intense bidding that started at almost 40% discount from the lower estimate price, the bids rose steadily until about N6m at which stage things slowed to a point at which we anticipated a final sale, then suddenly the bid started apace until about N8m then inched up slowly until the final N9.2m This final price was received by the over 100 people in the room with loud, long applause. A truly landmark event. More than anything it signals - if the auction is sustained twice a year as planned - that slowly but surely the real market value of Modern and Contemporary Art in Nigeria will increase. We are still faraway from the alleged $640,000 price tag that South African painter the Late Gerard Sekoto raked for his work but Nigeria has the numbers and relative wealth to develop and sustain a healthy and vibrant local art market. This is the time for discerning collectors and those procrastinating to enter the market. Buying now is the equivalent of buying an undervalued share on the stockmarket. So maybe i will try my for something next time.

A few unofficial figures here based mainly on my calculations and observations from last night's event. Rough fiqures indicate a total sale of about N75m. Out of 97 lots (i missed the first 2) 61 lots were sold within or over the estimate price, 4 or 5 were unsold and 32 sold for under estimate price. Artist such as Rom Isichei saw one of his works double from N1.1 (high end) to N2.4m (lot 94) as did Abiodun Olaku from N800k to N1.6 (lot66) as did Gbenga Offo which tripled from N50k to N160k. The nice surprise of the evening was recent Yabatech graduate (2007) Richardson Ovbiebo whose 2 works doubled from N75k to N200k (lot59) and N110k to N240k (lot84).

Reflective of the art situation in the country, the auction was dominated by the works of male artists with only 3 female artists;Nike Okundaye, Ndidi Dike and Nkechi Nwosu-Igbo. On the whole they didn't fare too well. Nike Okundaye managed to sell 1 out of her 3 entries. One sold for N1.1m which was still under the lower estimate price of N1.3. The other two works did not sell. All of Ndidi Dike's 2 entries sold for almost 35% less than their lower estimate price, with one unsold and Nwosu-Igbo sold one at N280k (lot41) with one under estimate price for N110k (lot34) whilst the third remained unsold. The Oshogbo Artists did not fare too well either and Twins Seven Seven and Oloruntoba were quite disappointing with sales either 50% lower than estimate price or not selling at all. Two favourites Kolade Oshinowo and El Anatsui were absent this time around.

What would I have picked up if I could have. Obiora Udechekwu, Untitled 1989 (lot20) which went for N220k, Onobrakpeya's Millenium Mask Panel which went for N1.7 and my favourite were two very accomplished paintings by Duke Asidere, The Women, 2001 (lot33) which went for N1.2m and Untitled, 2003 (lot36) which went for N1.1m. All in all organisers, buyers and artists went home satisfied.

I am now off to the Glasgow International Visual Art Festival.

Monday, 7 April 2008

Dak'Art 08 finally publishes artists' list

We were beginning to wonder if this year's biennale in Dakar, Senegal was going to take place due to the lack of information either from the officials or on the website. However, we all continued with our arrangements in the belief that it would and lo and behind there was some sign of life on their website about a week or 10 days ago, they changed the background to a bright green. Progress!! The theme of this edition draws on 'the metaphor of the mirror to examine, question a destiny and try to outline through Art, a future, that of an Africa more current than ever.' Hmmmm. And the list of 35 artists is a drastic step back from the 80 odd artists in 2006. The list also shows the names of some artists who have participated 2, 3 and some 4 times. Amean commmmon!!!!! I hope like our President for Life (a la Mugabe) we are not going to witness a new syndrome Artist for Life at Dak'Art. For regular visitors such as myself (I was invited 2 or 3 times oops visitor for life too) it would have been great to see new faces. And more drastic changes this year includes dropping the curatorial team. That is a BIG shame as it would have been the beginning of professionalising curatorial practice and encouraging debates on curating within the context of the biennale apart from emerging African curators the platform to organise such an event. Anyway at this stage we don't want to dig in too much without seeing what is on offer. So without much ado here is this year's list culled from www.dakart.org
Dak’Art 2008, 8 th edition of the Biennale of the contemporary African art, in Dakar, Senegal, from 9th of may until 9th of June 2008
35 artists selected for the International Exhibition
The official selection of 35 artists that are exhibiting at the 8th Biennale of African Contemporary Art was organized by the Selection Committee based on the application files directly received by the General Secretary of the Biennale. The Official exhibition of Dak’Art 2008 presents artists of 17 African countries and from the diaspora. Senegal (10), Cameroon (5), South Africa (4) and Egypt (3) are the most represented countries in the 2008 selection .

- Bénin (1):
- Burkina Faso (2):
Saidou DICKO
Justin KABRE (Kely)
- Cameroon (5):
Blaise BANG
Angele Etoundi ESSAMBA
Achillekà KOMGUEM
Samuel NJA KWA
- Côte d’Ivoire (1):
Jems Robert KOKOBI
- Egypt (3):
George Fikry IBRAHIMA
- Mali (1):
Mohamed KONATE
- Morocco (1):
- Nigeria (1):
Osarentin IGHILE
- RD Congo (1):
- Senegal (10):
El Hadji Mansour CISS
Samba FAL
Abdoulaye Armin KANE
Amadou Kane SY dit Kan-Si"
Ndary LO
Ousmane NDIAYE dit Dago
Babacar NIANG
Ibrahima NIANG Piniang
Seydi SAMBA dit Pape Seydi
- South Africa (4):
- Togo (1):
- Tunisia (1):
- Diaspora (3):
Grace NDIRITU (Grande-Bretagne)
Roberto Rico (Guadeloupe France)

Sunday, 6 April 2008

More blogs

Slowly but gradually Nigerian artists and institutions are creating their websites and/or blog. And this time round they are looking quite good. This makes a welcome change from some of the design and content deficient earlier websites. Even if you don't have much content you can at least mind your design.
Recent sites include
This will probably have to be given an award as best Nigerian art institution website. It is well designed and content rich with information that until now can be difficult to impossible to lay one's hands on. For example they have listed most of the BA thesis written from the 1971 until the 2002. The titles are revelatory but areas of interest and expertise which tilts todays traditional art and culture.
This is the site of the new initiative recently launched Lagos that will focus on auctions of Nigerian art and also working to widen the public's access to art.
A young up and coming painter based in Lagos. Although the website is in progress I am expecting it to turn out at least well designed if not content laden. Ibe has no excuse has he works as a designer for one Nigeria's top 5 advertising agencies.
From the diaspora comes Prof. Sylvester Ogbechie frequently updated and content rich blog. His posts are a mixture of whats happening, exhibition reviews and critical thoughts about important topics and issues affecting African Art and Artists.
Very nice blog by Ike Francis with good images and adequate information about his work. I hope more artists will emulate him. Like blogger, wordpress is free.

Thursday, 3 April 2008

This weekend's first professional auction of Modern and Contemporary Art from Nigeria is generating keen interest in the Lagos art sector.

Yusuf Grillo, Humana, 1993, oil on board.
The Lagos Art scene is buzzing at the moment. Following hot on the heels of the landmark first professional Art Fair on the continent, The Johannesburg Art Fair in which Nigeria galleries were conspiciously absent (that is a debate for another date) is the first ever professional auction of Modern and Contemporary Art in Africa. This is a landmark initiative of the newly formed Arthouse Contemporary Ltd and will be held this weekend starting tomorrow. Over 100 artworks by collectors, galleries and individual artists are up for auction with dates ranging from 1960 (sculptor Lamidi Fakeye) to the present. It is a pity we don't have any works by the very early modern artists such as Onabolu, Lasekan or Akeredolu. That begs the question about where are their works which few people have ever seen work outside of a catalogue. Whilst I personally know some collectors who have these artists' work I also know they would never put them up for auction or maybe they are adopting as we say in local parlance a siddon look position for now. An understandable tactic considering these early artists' works are way undervalued at the moment and in real terms should be worth 10 if not 20 times today's figures. Nigerians learnt with horror that a Ben Enwonwu and an Asiru Olatunde came up an auctioneer's sale in London and was going for about £400 as no-one was in a position to properly evaluate its worth.

The estimated prices are as low as $510 for a young artist to $50,000 for an older artist whose work has been more or less doubling ever year and Nigerian collectors are still failing over themselves to get buy one of his works. Exciting times indeed. So for those of you who want to bid by phone go to their website to get all the information. www.arthouse-ng.com