Art auctions are one of the most exciting events of the art market. There are the splashy headlines, the acclaimed world record sales, the grand figures, the eager voice of auctioneers, the big collector’s lists, the anonymous buyer, rumoured money laundering and expensive wines and cocktails. Indeed, bidding at an auction can be fun and exciting when you have what it takes to participate.
To make more people join the once exclusive club of art collecting at auctions in Lagos, Arthouse Contemporary Ltd. launched the Affordable Art Auction in 2016. This was set up for young and new collectors to test the waters with artworks estimated below N500,000 (Five Hundred Thousand Naira) and to stimulate the growing appreciation of art within Africa.
A year after the well-received first edition, the Affordable Art Auction held again on Saturday, 11th February at the Kia Center in Lagos. It presented a total of 127 artworks, including those marked for charity. The lots were a combination of works from Nigerian Masters, well-known artists and new names that are part of an auction for the first time. Notably, this auction has brought to the fore new names on the secondary market.
Also notable this year was the changed definition of affordable art as the highest estimate moved to N1,000,000 (One Million Naira). The plunging Nigerian Naira might have something to do with this increase but no official explanation was given by Arthouse.
Selling an estimated 60% of its presented lots, with many selling below the lower estimate, a number of the impressive sales were surprisingly for works of younger contemporary artists. Collectors seemed slightly less keen on works from Masters as most of the works sold in this category fell short of the estimated price. Although to be fair, only a handful of works, in total, sold above the estimated price.
For instance, none of Ben Osawe’s works on auction garnered enough bids to guarantee a sale. This might have had more to do with the medium – charcoal on paper – than with the artist himself, as Osawe’s wood works are known to do well in auctions. Whereas, new generation artist, Dipo Doherty, an alumnus of the Arthouse Foundation residency program, sold both of his works on offer; Circle 001 (2016 – 2017) estimated at N150,000-200,000, which was presented as part of the charity lots, sold at N200,000 hammer price, and Covalence (2015-2016) estimated at N450,000-N650,000 sold at N480,000 hammer price. Covalence was first presented at the 2016 ArtX Art Competition which was won by Patrick Akpojotor.
It was a good night for the acclaimed self-taught artist, Alimi Adewale whose Hustle and Bustle I (2012) estimated at N400,000-700,000 sold at N1,050,000. Ghanaian renaissance painter, Ato Delaquis also had a good sale with his works Boats (1992) and River at Village (1992) sold at N900,000 and N800,000 respectively at hammer price.
There was little surprise that the highest sale of the auction evening was Ben Osaghae’s Child Labour 2 (2011). The piece sold at N1, 400, 000 above the estimated N800,000 – N1, 000, 000 price. If the size of the work and previous auction records are considered, this new record shows a tip of what is to come. It has been predicted (and in fact expected) that there will be more attention on his works now that he is no more. The little bidding war for his work at this auction proofs this prediction right.
At the evening sale, it was remarkable to see more Nigerians bid for works unlike in recent past where foreigners are the visible buyers. This might be putting to rest the believe that Nigerians do not collect art. Even more interesting is the fact that these class of Nigerians are the young, non-political class. These young collectors at the auction were relentless in their bids, taking away an impressive collection of artworks.
“We look to focus on building a network of local clients to create a more self-sufficient market…”, says Arthouse CEO, Kavita Chellaram.
If nothing else, the affordable art auction is an opportunity for new collectors to come to the table, and in this case, it is the young Nigerians who are pulling up seats to guarantee a continued appreciation and patronage of Nigerian art, because no one else will grow the art market for Nigeria.