Phillips New Now opens mid-season Contemporary sales with $8m; Ben Enwonwu’s next market test at Sotheby’s in October; The Wallace Collection decides it can loan its masterpieces and armor.
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Bigger Than the Nigerian Mona Lisa?
The New York Times picks up on the re-discovered Ben Enwonwu portrait that Sotheby’s will sell in London a couple of weeks from now. The work is estimated at £100k as a way to attract bidders but the expectations are far greater because of the recent £1.2m sale of the so-called Nigerian Mona Lisa.
Much of the pre-sale publicity focused on the fact that the owner inherited the painting and was surprised to hear of its value after submitting it to Sotheby’s via its valuation app. So it is surprising to read that the artist’s son believes the work has the potential to surpass last year’s record:
“I’m very happy that my father is getting his due, but there’s still a long way to go,” said the artist’s son Oliver Enwonwu, a 44-year-old figurative painter and gallerist based in Lagos. He noted that contemporaries from other parts of Africa who were far less recognized in their lifetime were worth more on the international art market today.
“Christine,” the artist’s son noted, was “much more than the portrait of a woman.” It was an important precursor to pieces such as “Tutu,” and painted in the wake of the Nigerian civil war, a time of conflict, bloodshed and tribal tension, he said.
The you realize that the artist and gallerist may just be talking his own book:
“I’ll be very happy if it eclipses ‘Tutu,’” he said. “It’s a beacon of hope for a Nigerian artist who has a practice: He can work and earn good money for his work.”
He added, “It makes my work as a promoter of art in Nigeria much easier.”
The Wallace Collection Decides to Make Loans
The Chairman of the Wallace Collection, António Horta-Osório and Director, Xavier Bray in front of a bust of Sir Richard Wallace at The Wallace Collection.
The Wallace Collection announced today that it would begin to make loans from the extraordinary collection of Old Master paintings including Frans Hals’ The Laughing Cavalier, Diego Velázquez’s The Lady with a Fan and Nicolas Poussin’s A Dance to the Music of Time after a reading of the will that bequeathed the collection to the UK in 1897. The re-examination of the will came as a result of the recent appointment of a new director, Xavier Bray, according to the Guardian:
Bray was appointed three years ago and made challenging the loans policy a priority. “We are in central London and have this great collection but it has been rather isolating,” he said. “Working at the Wallace is quite a monastic existence because people know they will never get anything out of you.”
“The collection has been very static,” said Bray. “Art historically, from my point of view, it is a revolution. It means that we can start really understanding our collection better by juxtaposing it with other objects from other collections.”
Phillips New Now = $8m
Phillips kicked off the mid-season sales in New York with an $8,050,438 sale total from 221 lots offered and 179 lots sold. That’s an 81% sell-through rate. The top lot was Frank Stella’s Narowla II from 1971 that made $680k against a $250m low estimate. A 2003 work by Giuseppe Penone was offered with a $150k low estimate but made $275k. Louise Nevelson’s Frozen Laces-Two made $237,500 over a $150k high estimate. KAWS’s Untitled (SM7) made $225k over a $60k low estimate. Richard Hambleton’s Untitled work had the same performance against the same estimates. Another work by KAWS, a Sterling Ruby and a Nicolas Party work all rounded out the top ten lots. All three sold well above their estimate ranges.
The head of the sale, Sam Mansour, said:
“We have always prided Phillips’ New Now sales on their ability to place emerging artists alongside those with time-tested careers and collectors’ confidence and support of this is evidenced by the six new auction records for artists who are newer to the secondary market, including Derek Fordjour and Genieve Figgis.”