Five artists under 30 – Chapter 3: Africa and Middle East

[01 Jul 2014]


This week, our tour of the world in search of the art market’s youngest stars takes us to Africa and the Middle East and gives us a selection of five artists under the age of 30 who have posted the best performances at public sales over the past 18 months.

For this region of the world, we begin with three preliminary observations:

First, without the presence of Christie’s in Dubai, Sotheby’s in Doha, and the often prospective nature of the major auction sales in London, these young artists would possibly not even exist in the auction world.
Second, as prices are intimately linked to the economic health of a country (or in this case, of an extended continent), artists from Africa and the Middle East are by far the least expensive in the world. To illustrate this point, you only have to compare the corresponding sales totals: the top 5 young artists from Africa and the Middle East generated a total auction turnover $150,000 in a year and a half of auctions compared with nearly $10 million for the top 5 young Europeans and over $5.4 million for the top 5 young Americans.
Third, the flow of artworks onto a given market largely depends on the selling power of the auction firms, or – put another way – the offer density of the works by a given artist is highly dependent on the overall dynamism of the auctioneers. In this case we are talking about artists who are still almost completely unknown at an international level, and the number of lots offered in the past 18 months is very small indeed. In fact, the best-served market in this “zone” is that of Halil Vurucuoglu … with just four lots offered over the period.

Joseph Klibansky (born in 1984 in Cape Town)
Born in Cape Town and living in Amsterdam, Joseph KLIBANSKY‘s owes his success to a career abroad and a good understanding of the workings of the art market assisted by graduation from a Dutch business school. His work made its auction debut in Amsterdam in 2008 with a clever photo-montage on his favorite theme: urban density as a starting point for a series of dreamy fantasies. His first large format work to sell (entitled Heavy trafic and edited in 25 copies) fetched over $6,000 at AAG (€4,200 excluding fees, on June 2, 2008). Three years later, a large mixed-media work from an edition of 7 climbed to $40,000 at Sotheby’s Amsterdam. Seductive, Klibansky’s work is also visually effective and it is meticulously produced by compounding hundreds of images that are reworked with paint and resin. His works have already been shown in several Contemporary art fairs from Basel (Scope art fair) to Singapore, generating a more international demand that prompted Phillips to present one of his sculptures in London in April 2014. The polished bronze work titled Elements of Life (part of the Elements Series) sold for $63,650 ($80,000 including fees). That has been his only sale so far this year, but in terms of best results, it puts him way ahead of Halil Vurucuoglu, Yusuf Aygeç, Vahid Chamani and Yasmine Ben Kheli whose auction records so far vary between USD 13,000 and 16,000.

Two artists of Turkish origin follow Joseph Klibansky in this Top 5 ranking: Halil VURUCUOGLU (born in 1984) and Yusuf AYGEC (born in 1989). The first graduated from the Painting Department of the Dokuz Eylül school of Fine Arts in 2007. In 2008, he had a solo exhibition in Istanbul (in Bambu Dirimart) and he has participated in several group exhibitions in Turkey and abroad, particularly in London in 2013 for « Istanbul INN London. » Since 2010, his auction sales have been divided between London and Istanbul, with price levels significantly higher in the UK than in Turkey. His large drawings that sell for between USD 5,000 and 6,000 in Istanbul can fetch between $1,000 and 4,000 more in London, and London – the capital of the European art market – is a good springboard for the international reputations of these artists. Sotheby’s organized a first sale devoted to contemporary Turkish art in March 2009 sale (73 lots). Two years later, Phillips de Pury & Company organised Confessions Of Dangerous Minds: Contemporary Art from Turkey, with an exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery. The second Turkish artist in this Top 5 is Yusuf Aygeç (born in 1989) who owes his success to a body of work that is torn between Europe and the Middle East. One of Aygeç’s techniques involves taking immediately identifiable historical works and replaces the original face with a contemporary face. Two of his paintings have tested public sales, both at Christie’s in Dubai. One sold for $12,000 and the other for $13,000.

Vahid CHAMANI (born in 1984 in Iran) and Yasmine BEN KHELIL (born in 1986 in Tunisia) have also attracted interest from auction houses, particularly those in Dubai and Doha. Their markets are still small, but promising, having both passed the threshold of $10,000.