This month Sotheby’s set new world records for Nigerian artists Njideka Akunyili Crosby (Bush Babies, 2017, sold for $3,375,000 USD) and Toyin Ojih Odutola (From A Place of Goodness, 2017, sold for $62,500 USD). Njideka Akunyili Crosby, the daughter of the late Prof. Dora Nkem Akunyili, is the most valuable Nigerian artist ever and one of the most valuable female artists of all time. Sotheby’s also set a new record for the African Diaspora with the sale of Kerry James Marshall’s ‘Past Times’, 1997, which sold for $21,114,500 USD – a new world record for an artist of African descent.
Sotheby’s has been dedicated to promoting art from Africa and the Diaspora since 2016 when they set up a department dedicated to Modern and Contemporary African Art run by Hannah O’Leary. In just two years they have set world record prices for 35 important artists from the African continent and many more from the African Diaspora. World records include those for British-born Nigerian artist Yinka Shonibare MBE (Crash Willy, sold for $290,149 USD), and El Anatsui (Paths to the Okro Farm, sold for $1,445,000 USD), who lives in Nsukka and was Professor of Sculpture and Departmental Head at the University of Nigeria for over 40 years. A small painting by Ben Enwonwu, recently discovered by Sotheby’s experts, sold for almost ten times its pre-sale estimate (Africa Dances, sold for $264,568 USD).
Hannah O’Leary, director and head of Modern and Contemporary African art at Sotheby’s, comments “We are seeing a monumental shift in the art market towards greater diversity and a surge in interest in contemporary art from Africa, and of course Nigeria is leading the way. Our African auctions see bidding from every corner of the globe, and we are proud to promote the very best Nigerian art to an international audience.”
Sotheby’s will be holding valuation days in Lagos, Nigeria, ahead of the next auction of Modern and Contemporary African Art, which takes place in London on 16 October 2018. Hannah O’Leary will be visiting Lagos 3-5 June and is offering free and confidential auction valuations, strictly by appointment. Enquiries should be sent to Sharon.Obuobi@sothebys.com or telephone +44 (0)207 293 6620.