El Anatsui Sculpture Leads Bonhams’ First African Contemporary Art Sale

'Al Haji' broke the artist's record at auction for wooden sculpture.

Chéri Samba J'aime le Coleur Photo: Bonhams
El Anatsui Al Haji Photo: Bonhams

El Anatsui Al Haji (1990)
Photo: Bonhams

Several records fell Thursday at the first ever auction dedicated to contemporary African art at Bonhams. The Africa Now sale attracted bidders from around the world to the auction house’s headquarters in London.

The sale was driven by strong results from Ghanaian artist El Anatsui, one of the continent’s leading artists. Anatsui’s sculpture Al Haji (1990) sold for £146,500 ($226,437), the top lot, which set a world record for a wooden sculpture by the artist at auction.

Another highlight by the artist, an 18-piece sculpture The Pilgrims, sold for £32,500 ($50,233).

Abdoulaye Konaté Generation Biométrique no. 5 (2008- 2013) Photo: Bonhams

Abdoulaye Konaté Generation Biométrique no. 5 (2008- 2013)
Photo: Bonhams

Elsewhere, Nigerian artist Peju Alatise’s High Horses fetched £31,250 ($48,300), setting a new world record for the artist; while Abdoulaye Konaté’s Generation Biometrique also sold for £31,250 ($48,300), and also set a new auction record for the Mali-born artist.

An untitled work by Ivorian artist Aboudia Abdoulaye Diarrassouba sold for £12,500 ($19,320), as yet another record fell.

Meanwhile William Kentridge’s The Pit almost tripled its pre-sale estimate of £6,000 – £9,000 ($9,270 – $13,900) fetching £20,000 ($30,913), a new record for the artist’s monotypes.

Chéri Samba J'aime le Coleur Photo: Bonhams

Chéri Samba J’aime le Coleur (2003)
Photo: Bonhams

Paintings by Congolese artist Cheri Samba also did well. Jaime la Coleur surpassed its resale estimate of £25,000-£35,000 ($38,641-$54,097) to sell at £37,500 ($57,961).

“The number of world records set today is a clear reflection of the burgeoning interest in the African art market,” Giles Peppiatt, Bonhams director of Modern and Contemporary African Art, told AFP

“Contemporary African art is the most exciting and dynamic area of the art world right now,” the evening’s auctioneer added, “and its significance will only continue to grow.”

Nearby, Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Evening auction grossed an impressive $56.3 million, the auction house’s second highest Frieze week result.

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