The Financial Times homes in on the growing popularity of Nigerian painters, not just British artists of Nigerian descent like Ofili and Shonibare but a host of Africans living or working in Nigeria, including El Anatsui. Now Bonhams is planning regular auctions of Contemporary African art to complement their South African sales:
Giles Peppiatt, head of Bonhams’ watercolours department, believes such prices signal a rise in demand for contemporary Nigerian art which, while it has yet to be fully appreciated on its home soil, is attracting considerable attention from European, American and South African buyers.
“We have been selling Nigerian art for around three years, but it has always been included in our more wide-ranging topographical sales because the amount available has been small and the demand quite limited,” he says.
“But last May we noticed that the 10 or so lots that came under the hammer all made more than expected, and then the Enwonwus came up in December and achieved these unprecedented sums. There seems to be no doubt that Nigerian works are now attracting investors who, perhaps, are looking for new genres in the face of the recent downturn in established contemporary art.”
The result of Bonhams’ success is that the house now intends to complement its twice-yearly sales of South African art with an April auction dedicated to contemporary African art, which will include a strong field of Nigerian works. At the first of these, on April 8, three Enwonwu paintings will be offered, the highlight being a 1976 oil entitled “Negritude”. In keeping with recent successes, however, the estimate is not the £1,000–£1,500 that would have seemed appropriate this time last year. Instead, it will be £20,000–£30,000.
Ones to watch
paintings and sculpture
sculpture, installations, tribal masks and photographs
clay hangings, installations, photography and video
Muraina Oyelami: oil paintings on paper
Prince Twins Seven-Seven: mosaic-like paintings
Chief Jimoh Buraimoh: naive canvases
Art of Africa (Financial Times)