DUBAI: Works by three of Ghana’s top pioneering artists will be on display at a sales exhibition at Christie’s London, organized in collaboration with Dubai-based Efie Gallery.
Titled “Material Earth”, the exhibition features a total of 10 works by Ghanaian-born El-Anatsui, one of the world’s most sought-after contemporary artists, alongside two rising stars – Yaw Owusu and Isshaq Ismail – until May 13 at Christie’s London on 8 King Street in Mayfair.
As El-Anatsui and Owusu transform everyday objects into forms of complex beauty with inherent socio-political messages, Ismail’s paintings feature captivating grotesque portraits of anonymous individuals inspired by those the artist sees every day. days in his hometown of Accra, Ghana.
Presented for the first time in Europe, a new series of wooden sculptures by El-Anatsui are full of the artist’s captivating abstract forms colored in vibrant hues.
The exhibition takes place at a time when international market demand for African art is skyrocketing. In recent years, art from the continent has become the subject of bidding wars at global auctions such as Bonhams, Piasa, Christie’s, Sotheby’s, Strauss and Phillips. In the first half of 2019, international art sales from Africa generated a total of $25.3 million. According to Statista, art from the continent contributed $13 billion in 2018 to the global art market and is expected to reach $15 billion by 2023.
Contemporary art from Ghana is particularly in demand – especially as Amoako Boafo’s ‘The Lemon Bathing Suit’ (2019) sold for a stunning £675,000 ($881,432) against an estimate of £30,000 at £50,000 at the Philips Contemporary Art sale in February 2020. There was already a rising scene of young artists in the West African nation before Boafo’s incredible sale. Its success has further inspired a new generation of Ghanaian artists eager to portray and profit from their country’s history and contemporary culture.
Works by Ismail, a young rising star from Ghana, have recently greatly exceeded their high estimates at auction. At Sotheby’s Dedicated African Contemporary and Modern sale in London on March 22, three of the artist’s works set personal sales records. “Nkabom 2”, an acrylic on canvas depicting two heads, fetched £277,000, well above its high estimate of £50,000.
“Growing international demand has spawned a new sense of respectability for the African art genre,” Kwame and Kobi Mintah told Arab News. “Where before artists and works of art from Africa were overlooked, now they can no longer be ignored.”
The “Material Earth” exhibition, a collaboration between the Efie gallery – which opened its doors at the end of March 2022 with a successful solo exhibition by the great El-Anatsui – and Christie’s, marks the auction house’s continued commitment auction with contemporary art from Africa. Most recently, the auction house partnered with 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair, hosting the latest editions of the fair at its Paris address and through an online auction in October 2021 which featured works by Nigerian Osinachi, marking the first NFT by a contemporary African. artist donated by Christie’s Europe.
Also in October 2021, Christie’s in Dubai organized an exhibition in collaboration with Gallery 1957, a commercial gallery based in Accra and London, entitled “[West] African Renaissance”, showcasing a selection of works on canvas by some of the most esteemed artists working in West Africa.
“We are proud and honored that Efie Gallery has chosen Christie’s to collaborate on this incredible exhibition,” Isabelle de La Bruyere, Head of Office for the President of Christie’s, told Arab News. “The talent and the symbioses between the three artists represented, and even between our two brands, make this fair an exciting and revealing moment for the contemporary African art market, and the international reach that alliances can create.
The exhibit strives to spur discussion on the current global dialogue on climate change, sustainability and waste. Owusu, a recent graduate of the Pratt Institute in New York, incorporates otherwise worthless everyday materials, such as the coins he uses ritually, and recycles them to create new objects of beauty, shimmering with newfound life.
“Fostering cross-cultural exchange is paramount to Efie Gallery’s mission, so our European debut, through a unique collaboration with Christie’s London headquarters, helps further our mission and opens up this exchange in a new region for us,” Kwame and Kobi Mintah, co-founders of Efie Gallery, told Arab News.
“The viewer is invited to consider the materials that contribute to the intricate beauty envisioned in Anatsui and Owusu’s work,” explain Kwame and Kobi Mintah. “When contextualized in theme, the unaltered materials in Anatsui’s work of bottle cap assemblages become determined to reveal man’s ignorance of the excessive wastes that can be found in the world .”
On the other hand, faced with the work of Ismail, explain the Mintah brothers, “while the subjects are still visibly human, this loss of humanity is reflected in the deformity of these grotesque figures, which in turn serves as a reflection of ourselves. .”
While shows like “Material Earth” testify to the growing interest in African art internationally, there are still major obstacles to progress on the continent, such as limited art education and the development of a larger collector base.