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Christie’s is hosting an auction of one of the largest collections of African art. The pieces come from the collection of the Durand-Dessert family who have gathered these works for the past 30 years. Will this sale serve as a turbo boost for the valuation of future African sculptures?
Why This Matters: Little is known about African art dating beyond the 20th Century. During the colonization of African kingdoms Western occupiers muted creative practices including the development of the sculptures in this auction. Anthropologists and art historians have gained greater understanding of the art from various parts of Africa. In turn this has increased appreciation for these pieces. The items in this auction are estimated to go for between $9 million and $14 million.
Famed Nigerian sculptor Yinka Shonibare wants to see African art get more respect in the West. “I wanted to raise the fact that Western art owes a hell of a lot to African aesthetics. Where would Picasso be without the encounter with African art,” said Shonibare about a recent collection he is curating at the Stephen Friedman Gallery in London.
Christie’s anticipates the auction will set off the market for African art, in large part due to the Nigerian pieces in the sale. “Never before has there been so much good Nigerian material in just one sale at Christie’s, and it’s really a market-making moment. We want to put these works on the map and give them the attention and the platform they deserve,” said Christie’s Head of African and Oceanic Art Bruno Claessens. Read More
Ben Enwonwu’s “Tutu” sold for a record $1.68M
The price for Njedika Akunyili Crosby’s art has increased 1,580% in one year
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Nigeria’s modern and contemporary artists are getting the attention they deserve abroad and at home. Works by artists such as Ben Enwonwu and Njideka Akunyili Crosby have set records at multiple auction houses this year. Where’s the next level for Nigerian artist in their quest for recognizance in the art world?
Why This Matters: Nigerian artists haven’t been top of mind in the conversation around modern and contemporary art until recently. Artists like Matisse and Damien Hirst dominate those conversations, but now it looks like Nigerians are taking their turn.
Njideka Akunyili Crosby has seen a meteoric rise in the value of her work. In the span of about a year, her record sale price has risen from $100,000 to $3.38 million. This has kicked off a competition between Sotheby’s (BID +0.79%) and Christie’s. An Akunyili Crosby piece sold at a Christie’s auction in 2017 for $3.1 million, which was a record for the artist at the time. Earlier this year, Sotheby’s improved on that record by selling her piece “Bush Babies” for $3.38 million.
Ben Enwonwu is etched in history as Nigeria’s most popular artist, but his work has not drawn the auction prices to match his stature. Part of the reason for this mismatch in pricing and stature could be Nigeria’s art market still finding its footing on the global stage. Enwonwu’s low prices may change after the recent sale of his most famous work “Tutu,” which is often compared to the Mona Lisa, for a record $1.68 million.
Nigeria’s art market will need a range of stakeholders investing in the space to reach the next level in prominence. Auction houses like Sotheby’s are conducting art valuations in the country. This increased attention international and local support could lead to us hearing more Nigerian artists names in the future. Read More
Jean-Michel Basquiat’s “Flesh and Spirit” sold for more than 2,000 times its purchase price
Diddy purchased Kerry James Marshall’s “Past Times” for $21 million
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The contemporary art sale at Sotheby’s auction house turned up the heat surrounding black art. Three living black artists set auction records including Kerry James Marshall’s “Past Times” painting which sold for $21.1 million. How important are these milestones to help move black artists into the mainstream art spotlight?
Why This Matters: Pieces by black artists drew dozens of bidders and even celebrities like Swizz Beatz and Diddy got in on the action. One of the highest selling black art pieces was Jean-Michel Basquiat’s “Flesh and Spirit” which sold for $30.7 million, more than 2,000 times its purchase price from 35 years ago.
Swizz Beatz won a portrait by Lynette Yiadom-Boakye for $555,000, which was part of the Studio Museum group. Leave it to Diddy to go all out with a $21 million purchase of Marshall’s “Past Times” painting. This piece of art was acquired in 1997 for $25,000 by the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority (MPEA) in Illinois for the South Building of its McCormick Square campus. Originally the painting was purchased with public money raised through project-expansion bonds. The sales price should make a small dent in the state’s debt problem, even as S&P projects the state’s budget deficit will likely eclipse $7bn in its fiscal 2018 year.
Also, The Studio Museum of Harlem raised a hearty $16.4 million from the auction. “It’s a testament to the importance and centrality of these artists within the narrative of contemporary art,” said Thelma Golden the Studio Museum’s director to Bloomberg. It will use its proceeds from the auction to help renovate and expand the museum’s 125th Street home. Read More
We are at such an important moment in contemporary art history. Kerry James Marshall has fetched 20 odd million at auction. There are increasingly more solo and group exhibitions mounted for Black artists. What I find fascinating is that among Black artists, women artists are as respected and revered as their male counterpart. This is not true in any other area of contemporary art. Black artists are not only finally given a seat at the exhibition table, they are being invited to positions of power within the hallowed halls of museum board rooms. Amy Sherald, who famously painted The First Lady, Michelle Obama, has officially become a trustee on the board of the Baltimore Museum of Art. Sherald used Black cultural references from the community of Gees Bend, Alabama. The women of Gees Bend quilted with rags from slavery to the Civil War, a failed reconstruction, Jim Crow to Dr. King and onward. These quilts are the roots upon which so many African American artists are reclaiming history. Both Black men and women united together creating a new language of contemporary art.
For more art insights check out Cheryl McGinnis (Curator, Flatiron Prow Art Space, New York) Read More
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The Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority (MPEA) of Illinois plans to sell a painting by Chicago artist Kerry James Marshall to help out a municipal authority in the state. Marshall’s painting was acquired in 1997 for $25,000 and could sell at auction for $8 - $12 million. Is black art a new play for states to get out of debt?
Why This Matters: If Marshall’s “Past Times” painting sells for $12 million, it would represent an increase of nearly 48,000% over its initial purchase price. The painting was a centerpiece of Marshall’s acclaimed traveling retrospective. It was bought by the MPEA for the South Building of its McCormick Square campus, which was completed in 1996, according to Sotheby’s. Cynthia McCafferty, a spokeswoman for the authority told Bloomberg, they used public money raised through project-expansion bonds to buy the art.
Illinois is the fifth most populous U.S. state and is saddled with debt. Moody’s Investors Service and S&P Global Ratings rank Illinois one level above junk at BBB-, the worst rating of any state. S&P projected the state’s budget deficit was likely to eclipse $7bn in its fiscal 2018 year. While this may only make a small dent in the states debt problem, Illinois needs all the help it can get. Read More
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The thirst for black art is on the rise and Swann Galleries is the most recent beneficiary. At least 12 artists achieved new benchmarks when the gallery held its biannual African American Fine Art sale. Does the success of these art sales finally bring attention to the importance of black art contributions to an auction house’s bottom line?
Why This Matters: Swann Galleries introduced sales dedicated to black art back in 2007. They have increased the number of works by these artists since interest in African American art attracts a wider base of U.S. and international collectors. Also, a lot of black art purchasers are institutions pining to address deficits and widen their representation in the space.
The overall sales total from the auction was more than $4.5 million. This was a Swann record not just for sales in its African American Fine Art department, but for the entire auction house over the course of its more than 75-year history. A rare early painting by Elizabeth Catlett, “Head of a Woman (Woman),” sold for $209,000. “Tension on the High Seas” by Jacob Lawrence was among the most anticipated lots featured in the auction. The long lost panel sold for $413,000, four times the anticipated price. Read More
Chris Ofili’s “The Holy Virgin Mary" painting is getting the big city art treatment. It’s entering the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) as a gift from billionaire hedge fund manager Steve Cohen. Is this acquisition of black art by a major museum more than a trend?
Why This Matters: In 2015, “The Holy Virgin Mary" fetched $4.6 million at Christie’s in London and it remains the auction record for Ofili. The painting stirred controversy at the Brooklyn Museum during the 1999 "Sensation" exhibit due to its depiction of a black Virgin Mary beside lumps of elephant dung. Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani found the art so off-putting he sued the Brooklyn Museum to have it removed.
Now, MoMa has accepted the canvas originally created in 1996 during an acquisition curatorial committee meeting. “People look at our collection as a place that provides history of art in our time. And these artists and works are essential to art history, we belatedly realize," the museum’s chief curator of painting and sculpture Ann Temkin said to Bloomberg.
Ofili was joined by three other black artists whose works were acquired for the MoMA. The works include; "No Title (The Ugly American)," a painting by Herve Telemaque along with “Sweet Thang (Lynn Jenkins)," a painting by Barkley Hendricks. Lastly, a sculpture called “Leaning," created in 1980, by Maren Hassinger was amassed by the museum. Read More
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Wall Street titans are making a mad dash for black art. Billionaire hedge fund managers Steve Cohen and Kenneth Griffin both recently donated high profile pieces to the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), an apparent coup for the museum. What will it take for black artists to secure the same sale prices of their contemporaries in the industry?
Why This Matters: Like Mike Jones said, “back then they didn’t want me, now I’m hot they all on me.” Within the last decade, black artists have increasingly become a focus of the art world. Since 2010, the MoMA has secured 430 pieces by black artists. Last year, a painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat sold for $110.5 million, the sixth highest price for a piece at auction.
Curators like Derby English, who the MoMA brought on as an adjunct curator in 2014, and Zoe Whitley, who has been at Tate Modern since 2013 have helped to raise the profile of black art. Yet, the underpinnings of the $45 billion art market are quite narrow and don’t appear conducive to broadening the number of black artists who can secure high-dollar prices for their works. Twenty auction houses account for 70% of the public art market and 30 art dealers control a third of gallery sales, according to Rachel Pownal, Maastricht University finance professor.
What’s Next: Auction house Sotheby’s has an Impressionist & Modern Art auction on tap for May 14, though it has not yet listed the catalog of pieces. Watch out for the number of black artists whose pieces make the catalog and what they ultimately sell for. Read More
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African American art is at a seminal moment in art history. We are seeing the gains of the Obama administration with regard to more museum and gallery exhibits by African American men and women. While at the same time, a reclaiming of history that has been sparked in no small part by the current administration.
Stephen Towns: Rumination and a Reckoning at the Baltimore Museum of Art is a must-see exhibit. Town reaches back into the history of quilt making and the incredible women of Gees Bend Alabama who created some of the most important pieces of American Art. "His quilting practice delves into the perspective of women and people of color and draws on that knowledge to interrogate the institution of slavery in American History,” said Cecilia Wichmann, Curator. This reclamation of history in this visual way is powerful and speaks to everyone who experiences it.
For more art insights check out Cheryl McGinnis (Curator, Flatiron Prow Art Space, New York) Read More