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African, Modern and Contemporary Art


Jonathan Horwich

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Collectors are always on the lookout for new opportunities and in a brilliant piece of rebranding over the last couple of years the old style South African Art auctions have re-emerged as a new category known as African, Modern and Contemporary Art.

Ben Enwonwu
Tutu, 1974, oil on canvas
Bonhams, London, Feb 2018. Estimate 200,000 – £300,000, sold for £1,208,750

Auctions now take place in New York and London and the rebranding has widened the catchment area to the whole of Africa, while at the same time still retaining the big hitters such as Irma Stern and Ben Enwonwu , the auctions now include many new artists or previously neglected artists from across the Continent of Africa. Looking around at the current International contemporary sales in all the main sites, some African artists such as El Anatsui have already broken through to the mainstream market. However the vast majority of artists are at a very early stage so it’s still possible to support and spot new stars and over the next 5 to 10 years I would expect to see many more cross over into the mainstream Contemporary auctions.

El Anatsui
Recycled Dreams, c2005. Found aluminium bottle caps and copper wire.
Christies, New York, Nov 2018, Estimate 700,000 – 1,000,000 USD, sold for 1,512,500 USD

Here are a few examples from recent sales and it’s encouraging to note that the price range is wide and the choice of work is vast, all the way from £2,000 to £2 million and there is plenty of work available at entry and all levels in every sale, the volume of art being produced by this vibrant and vast Continent is more than enough to satisfy even the most enthusiastic collector.

Billie Zangewa
The Cotswolds, 1973. Embroidered silk.
Aspire Art Auctions, Sept 2019, Estimate 9,800 – 16,400 USD, sold for 14,987 USD

Covid has brought us many challenges and the world of auctions and galleries have responded brilliantly to the call for greater visibility about what is available to buy .

Chéri Samba
J’Aime la Couleur, 2005. Acrylic and glitter on canvas.
Sotheby’s London, April 2019, Estimate £40,000 – £60,000, sold for £93,750

So now It’s super easy to browse to find what appeals to you. It’s easy to follow the sales and bid online, take your time before buying, and I think you will learn and enjoy!

Ibrahim El Salahi
Standing Figure. Pen and Ink.
Bonham’s London, March 2019, Estimate £15,000 – £20,000, sold for £50,062

Some artists to look out for are:
El Anatsui , Ben Enwonwu, Gerard Sekoto, Ibrahim El Salahi, Yusuf Grillo, Demas Nwoko, Skunder Boghossian, Malangatana Ngwenya, Iba N’Diaye, Papa Ibra Tall, Sam Ntiro, Uzo Egonu, Uche Okeke, Bodys Isek Kingelez, Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Eddy Kamuanga Ilunga, Pascale Marthine Tayou, Irma Stern, Nicholas Hlobo, William Kentridge, Chéri Samba, Billie Zangewa, Abdoulaye Konate, Ouattara Watts.

Gerald Sekoto
Cyclists in Sophiatown. Oil on canvas board.
Sotheby’s London, October 2019, Estimate £250,000 – £350,000, sold for £362,500

Artists hail from Angola, Benin, Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Ghana, Malawi, Mali, Morocco, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, Zimbabwe and other countries in Africa.