Sotheby’s first foray into this rising area of the market totalled £2,794,750, with a respectable 79 of 116 lots sold, many surpassing their estimates.
Highlights included El Anatsui’s large wall piece Earth Developing More Roots (2011), sold for £728,750; Irma Stern’s Sunflowers (1942) which went for £416,750; Yinka Shonibare’s Crash Willy (2009) for £224,750, exceeding its £180,000 estimate and a record for the artist; and William Kentridge’s World on Its Hind Legs sculpture achieved £125,000 instead of its £90,000 estimate. Notably, a work by Ben Enwonwu more than doubled its estimate – the painting Negritude sold for £72,500 – and an untitled mixed-media work on paper by Nicholas Hlobo went for £60,000, five times its original high estimate.
Hannah O’Leary, head of the department of Modern and Contemporary African Art at Sotheby’s, had indicated in the weeks leading up to the auction that African art was on the rise, and following that shared public opinion, as well as the auction results, the relative affordability of African art may also play into its sudden presence on the global art scene.
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