A Painting by the Rapper Skepta Just Sold for Nearly $100,000 in a Sotheby’s Sale He Helped Curate

The price easily exceeded expectations.

Skepta, Mama Goes to the Market, 2020. Courtesy the artist and Sotheby’s.
Skepta, Mama Goes to the Market, 2020. Courtesy the artist and Sotheby’s.

The rapper and grime music pioneer Skepta has been revealing another artistic side in recent months.

Earlier this week, the British-Nigerian rapper sold an original painting for £81,900 GBP ($94,660) as part of Sotheby’s “Contemporary Curated” sale, easily exceeding its presale estimate of $46,000 to $69,000. 

Skepta, whose real name is Chief Joseph Olaitan Adenuga, Jr., painted the work, titled Mama Goes to Market (2020), over the span of a week during the pandemic. It was inspired by Skepta’s mother, who used to carry him with her whenever she went shopping.

“I did it because I was just super frustrated in my house,” he told the Financial Times earlier this year. 

He stowed the painting away in his house for over a year, until he decided to bring it to an event hosted by Givenchy, where the legendary graffiti artist Chito was on hand to tag items brought by guests. Chito added two signature figures of his own in the background of Skepta’s market scene.

Skepta poses backstage in Manchester on June 05, 2019 in Manchester, United Kingdom. Photo: Shirlaine Forrest/Getty Images.

Skepta selected several works by other artists to appear in the “Contemporary Curated” sale, which takes place twice a year in London, including those by Chito, Slawn, Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, Ouattara Watts, and Frank Bowling. 

From rapper to artist to curator, Skepta has become a household name emerging from the British grime scene to the top of the charts with hit singles like “Praise the Lord” featuring A$AP Rocky. 

“We’re seeing the boundaries between different disciplines being blurred,” Lisa Stevenson, head of curated sales at Sotheby’s, told the Financial Times ahead of the auction. 

Skepta has said that he takes inspiration from boundary-blending figures like Virgil Abloh, the late architect turned fashion designer whose garments are often displayed in museums. But It seems unlikely that Skepta will drop the mic for the easel altogether. “I ain’t got the patience for painting!” he told the FT.

What this all means for the Mercury-prize winning musician turned painter is anyone’s guess, though clearly the sale signals appetite for art not only inspired by hip-hop culture, but seamlessly integrated with it. 

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