Bonhams to Sell Richard Branson Contemporary African Art Highlights for Charities Virgin Unite & the African Arts Trust

Bonhams Modern and Contemporary African Art auction in London on Wednesday 18 March includes works from a collection that was assembled by Sir Richard Branson, Robert Devereux and others to showcase the best of Contemporary Art from Africa. The collection was curated by Ed Cross Fine Art.

Put up at auction for the first time, the artworks are being sold to raise funds for Virgin Unite, Virgin's non-profit foundation, and for the African Arts Trust. Virgin Unite's share of the proceeds will support its charitable initiative Pride 'n' Purpose in South Africa' Mpumalanga Province.

Originally established in 2003, Pride 'n' Purpose is committed to supporting communities in the area surrounding the Sabi Sand Reserve in South Africa. The charity provides access to clean and safe water, education at all levels, extracurricular activities for children, and support to local entrepreneurs. At present, more than 35,000 people across six communities are benefitting from this project, with plans to expand its work in 2020.

The African Arts Trust acts as a catalyst for the emergence and growth of locally managed and sustainable contemporary visual art organisations in Africa. It is a charitable trust set up to support visual artists by the collector and philanthropist, Robert Devereux. The trust is based on Robert's years of frequent travel to Africa and the recognition that there is a wealth of talented visual artists whose opportunities are stifled by the lack of resources available locally in the visual arts sector.

Highlights of the collection include:

Ahioke, an ephemeral mixed media installation by the highly regarded Nigerian artist Nnenna Okore. The title means 'top cloth' in Yoruba, and the work was made using traditional West African weaving techniques. These highly decorative fabrics are usually worn for special occasions, weddings, festivals and ceremonies, but hand-woven cloths are being threatened by mass production. By incorporating age-old methods into her work, Okore is preserving an endangered cultural tradition. Estimate £10,000-15,000.

Egun, a triptych by the Beninese artist Julien Sinzogan. The work depicts a Yoruba masquerade, in which the dancers journey from the physical world to the spirit realm. Sinzogan uses the recurring motif of a ship to symbolise this transition from one state to another, but it is also a powerful reference to the Middle Passage, the forcible transportation of Africans across the Atlantic during the slave trade. Estimate £20,000-30,000.

Landscape 1 Min Neber by the multi-disciplinary, architecture-trained Ethiopian artist Elias Sime. His collages have a sculptural element to them, composed from thread, buttons, plastic and animal skin. This modernist landscape presents a utopian vision of what his country, and the world, could look like if husbanded in a more responsible way. Sime has been shortlisted for the 2020 Guggenheim Hugo Boss Prize.Estimate £10,000-15,000.

Sir Richard Branson said:

"I've always been drawn to African art, so I was only too happy to donate some of the pieces we've collected to Bonhams Modern & Contemporary African Art and raise critical funds for Virgin Unite and the African Arts Fund. We set up our not-for-profit foundation, Virgin Unite, in 2004 with the belief that we can achieve so much more when we work together. Thank you to Bonhams for joining our efforts and I only hope the new owners love the artwork as much as I do."

Bonhams Director of Contemporary African Art, Giles Peppiatt said:

"Sir Richard began to acquire contemporary African art in the early 1990s, inspired by his experiences of working across the continent. The collection that was assembled is rich in quality and diversity, and the 17 works in the Bonhams sale are a tribute to his restless curiosity."

A link to the sale can be found here: https://www.bonhams.com/auctions/25800/

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