Tribute to Nigeria on its 100th birthday at Bonhams 'Africa Now' sale

Africa Now
21 May 2014
London, New Bond Street

One hundred years after the founding of Nigeria, Bonhams the international fine art auction house, will head its next "Africa Now" auction of Modern and Contemporary African Art on May 21 with outstanding works of Nigerian artists to celebrate the anniversary.

The sale in London features the work of Ben Enwonwu, Yusuf Grillo and amongst other distinguished Nigerian artists. An invitation to the May VIP "NIGERIA 100" reception in London promises to be the hottest ticket for Nigerian art lovers. The reception will be formally opened by the Nigerian Minister of Culture, Chief Edem Duke.

Giles Peppiatt, Director of contemporary African Art at Bonhams comments: "Many collectors are looking at contemporary African art expecting it to be the next market where values will increase in the same manner as contemporary Chinese art. Certainly the interest in this field has exploded with international collectors snapping up some of the best works that come to the market."

This year's auction promises to be just as exciting as the previous Africa Now sales, and includes the finest works by the masters of Nigerian modernism and other well-known talents from the contemporary scene. Among the many highlights of the sale are four important oil paintings, by the Nigerian master, Yusuf Grillo. Characteristic of the artist's celebrated style, with their graceful elongated figures and rich yet serene colours, 'The Flight' and 'African Woman with a Gele' are undoubtedly the finest examples of the artist's work to appear in the open market in the past decade.

Ben Enwonwu is arguably the first important Nigerian artist who became conscious of the sculptural traditions of his people. This awareness profoundly affected the nature of his art and is evident in the arresting carved ebony sculptures 'Snake Dance' and 'Africa Dances'. We are also delighted to include a strong selection of his oil paintings, 'Africa Dances', 'Princess of Mali', 'Workers in the field', 'Ogolo' and 'Dancing Women'. These sumptuous works are a testament to the artist at the height of his creative powers. It is to the credit of men like Ben Enwonwu and Yusuf Grillo, that Nigerian art has grown from strength to strength.

Contemporary Nigerian art has witnessed significant growth and evolution over the years. In 2013 this buoyant market increased by 21.8% in total sales and interest in this niche market continues to gain momentum. A diverse and complex visual vocabulary has emerged that fuses Africa's stylistic conventions of geometric abstraction, naturalism, expressiveness and symbolism with Western techniques and trends. In addition to the strong selection of masters, Africa Now boasts an outstanding selection of contemporary Nigerian artists.

Nigerian born, Sokari Douglas Camp is one of the best female sculptures emerging from the continent. She also belongs to the generation of female artists to have attracted the attention of the international art market. 'Bike 2000' is a steel sculpture depicting a family on a bike. It is through her sculpture, that Douglas Camp addresses contemporary issues, such as oil imperialism, colonialism, migration and genocide. These works are conversation starters, evoking questions and demanding answers from us all. Her works are joyous, angry, complicated simple conversations with the world now. 'Orange scarf goes to heavan' by the Nigerian activist artist Peju Alatise, is a strong testament to her commanding presence in this constantly expanding, incrementally confounding Africana arts cape.

Comprising of seven important, mid career artists with significant following in Nigeria and internationally, The Guild of Professional Fine Artists of Nigeria (GFA) has been hailed as re-defining Nigerian Art by contributing immensely to the growth of full time studio practice. Aimed at reshaping and adding texture to the entire nation's art landscape, The Guild endeavours to promote the appreciation of fine arts in Nigeria. We are delighted to offer works by artists from The Guild in our sale, which include the works of the established artists; Abiodun Olaku, Bunmi Babatunde, Kolade Oshinowo and emerging talents such as Sam Ovraiti amongst others.

Peppiatt adds: "With each of our African Contemporary Art sales this market takes a step forward as world record prices are achieved. The national spotlight being cast on African art by Bonhams, the Tate and others has focused increasing interest on African artists and I am delighted to see them getting the recognition they deserve. As the only auction house offering a stand-alone sale of Contemporary African Art for the past five years, the growth of our results pleases me very much."

Top items in the sale include:
Benedict Chukwukadibia Enwonwu, M.B.E (Nigerian, 1917-1994)
'Dance Ensemble II'
is estimated to sell for £50,000-80,000.

Benedict Chukwukadibia Enwonwu, M.B.E (Nigerian, 1917-1994)
'Jungle Path'
is estimated to sell for £30,000-50,000

Yusuf Adebayo Cameron Grillo (Nigerian, born 1934) 'The Flight'
is estimated at £50,000-80,000

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