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The African art Top 10

[23 Jun 2017]

Discover the best sales every Friday! Every other Friday, Artprice posts a theme-based auction ranking. At a time when African contemporary art is making its mark internationally, our Top 10 focuses on African artists and notably on a young female artist who has achieved top sales in just a few months…

Rank Artist Hammer Price ($) Artwork Sale
1 Njideka Akunyili CROSBY (1983) 3,072,754 The Beautyful Ones Christie’s, 07/03
2 Marlene DUMAS (1953) 1,872,500 Angelique Sotheby’s, NY, 19/05
3 William KENTRIDGE (1955) 437,006 Tête de femme bleue Piasa, Paris, 20/04
4 Adel ABDESSEMED (1971) 188,703 Lampedusa Sotheby’s, Paris, 23/03
5 Latifa ECHAKHCH (1974) 154,688 And then the moon appears between the branches… Sotheby’s, Paris, 06/06
6 Chéri SAMBA (1956) 140,280 Le seul et unique devoir sacre d’un enfant Cornette de Saint Cyr, Paris, 12/06
7 Julie MEHRETU (1970) 112,500 Untitled (Overlay 2) Sotheby’s, NY, 19/05
8 Wangechi MUTU (1972) 100,000 Sleeping Heads Christie’s, NY, 18/05
9 Ghada AMER (1963) 88,464 Red & White Lovers Christie’s, London, 08/03
10 Norman Clive CATHERINE (1949) 67,165 Identikit Strauss & Co, Johannesburg, 05/06
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Crosby, the revelation of the year

Njideka Akunyili Crosby (currently living and working in Los Angeles) is celebrating her 35th birthday with an extraordinary record of more than $900,000 for a work sold in Hong Kong on 27 May 2017 during the very successful Christie’s auction: Contemporaries: Voices from East and West / Asian 20th Century & Contemporary Art. Unknown in the auction market just a year ago, Njideka Akunyili Crosby came to prominence in 2016 by winning the Canson Award at the Drawing Center in New York. This led to a residence with fellow artist Tunga, giving her a greater reputation, which has caused her value to take off, especially since the artist’s first appearance at auction was preceded by an exhibition at the prestigious Victoria Miro Gallery in London. Attracted by so many positive signals, collectors queued up to pay to more than $90,000 for her first artwork sold at auction, an untitled mixed media drawing dating from 2011, which was snapped up at Sotheby’s in New York for $93,750 on 29 September 2016. Faced with enthusiastic demand, Christie’s and Sotheby’s later added to their May catalogue five works by Crosby sold in New York and Hong Kong. Two sold for $1 million (Thread and Harmattan Haze), while a third (I Refuse to be Invisible) sold for $2,647,500 million at Christie’s on 17 May 2017. The spectacular rise in prices of this young artist culminated with a record of $3 million last March in London forThe Beautiful Ones)… Since the beginning of 2017, the sale of her works at auction has generated more than $9.4 million, 2.5 times more than William Kentridge and 4.4 times more than Marlène Dumas over the same period.

If Crosby’s initial results ensure her entry into the Top 50 of the most successful contemporary artists in the world this year, will the demand be strong enough in the future for her work to maintain the already very high prices? For the time being, the reputation of her work has been boosted by the « new talent » bandwagon, as well as the support of a major gallery, Victoria Miro’s, and a solid CV (including exhibitions at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York in 2016 and at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles in 2015) and major recent shows. Crosby is indeed exhibiting a large drawing and collage entitled Cassava Garden (2015) at the Venice Biennale, which was previously shown at the Montreal Biennale of Art in 2016.

Recognition for Chéri Samba

The market for contemporary African art is on the rise and Congolese artist Chéri Samba is reaping the rewards: his auction sales are already five times higher than in 2016 although 2017 is far from over (nearly $598,000 of works sold between January and June 2017), notably thanks to a painting sold for 10 times its estimate on 12 June 2017. Entitled Le seul et unique devoir sacre d’un enfant (The One and only sacred duty of a child), the work attained a record price of $140,280 at the Cornette de Saint Cyr auction in Paris. Chéri Samba will be 61 this year and this new record celebrates the long career of this pioneer of contemporary African art. Today, his work is driven by a more dynamic market than Julie Mehretu ($230,000 since January 2017) or Ghada Amer ($108,000 over the same period), two artists also in high demand internationally. The works of Samba are beginning to benefit from good visibility (some can be seen at the Vuitton Foundation until August 28th in the current « Art/Afrique, le nouvel atelier » exhibition), , notably in art fairs. The 1:54 Art Fair, entirely devoted to contemporary African art, contributed significantly to this breakthrough: established in London since 2013 and in New York since 2015, the event will take place for the first time in Marrakesh in February 2018.

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