Yesterday we received a report on Nigeria Art Market for the year 2014 from the Foundation for Contemporary and Modern Visual Arts (FCMVA) in Nigeria. The twenty seven pages report written by Jess Castellote and Tayo Fagbule covers different areas of the growing art market in Nigeria with major statistics taken from art auctions in Lagos and in London. Their analysis cites a few factors as the catalyst pushing art from Nigeria – predominantly Lagos – to the attention of dealers in the global art market.

Some of these are; the new exhibiting culture of pop up art outside the regular art space, increased numbers of dealers/galleries, current trends of selling art works at local and international markets like the auction and art fair, influence of Bonhams ‘Africa Now’, and the rise of middle income earners in Nigeria.  The growing interest of the middle income earners opens the market up to the arrival of new art lovers and buyers.

The report provides a list of high selling Nigerian artists both living and dead from different auction reports. This is the first ever comprehensive report that covers the Nigeria art market. It examines the activities that make up the relatively small but growing market for modern and contemporary artworks from Nigeria using data compiled from auctions by Arthouse, TKMG (Terra Kulture-Mydrim Gallery) and Sogal in Lagos, and Bonhams in London.

According to the authors, the report focuses on changes in the different sectors of the market such as the professionalization of the primary market, new entrants into the gallery space in Lagos, changes in the exhibition culture and the performance of the Nigerian art at auctions. The report also includes, for the first time, the auction turnover for the 100 top-selling Nigerian artists in 2014.

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Kolade Oshinowo, At the Party Sold at the April 2014 TKMG auction in Lagos for $14,938

Auction sales of modern and contemporary artworks from Africa dropped by 10% in 2014 to $3.27 million from $3.65 million in 2013. Sales at auctions held in Lagos declined by 3% (from $1.73 million to $1.67 million) while auction sales at Bonhams in London dropped by 17% (from $1.92 million to $1.60 million).

In Lagos and London, the sales volume of artworks by Nigerian and non-Nigerian artists grew by 3% to 315, partly due to an additional auction in Lagos. The debut auction by Sogal in October 2014 increased sales volume in Lagos by 10% to 246. Of the 69 lots sold in London, 39 were by Nigerian artists. Despite the drop in volume and value, average prices and sell-through rates recorded at the auctions indicate a strong market, buoyed by Nigerian artworks.

In 2014, the auctions were dominated by artists from Nigeria. The top 10 selling artworks at the auctions in Lagos and London were by Nigerians: 70 artworks (25 of them by Ben Enwonwu) accounted for 18% of the sales volume and generated 58% ($1.91 million) of the sales value.

From Yusuf Grillo (b.1934) to Peju Alatise (b.1975), artworks by old and young Nigerian artists dominate the high-end of the market. Ben Enwonwu (1917-1994) maintains the lead, both in value and volume while the works by El Anatsui (b.1944), Bruce Onabrakpeya (b.1932), Kolade Oshinowo (b.1945) continued to generate five-digit figures in turnover. Paintings and sculptures by Bunmi Babatunde (b.1957), Sokari Douglas Camp (b.1958) and Abiodun Olaku (b.1958) also reported impressive turnovers.

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Bruce Onobrakpeya, Dance in the Bush Sold at the April 2014 TKMG auction in Lagos for $24,784

The authors note that, “The growing interest for modern and contemporary artwork from Nigeria and the swelling number of newly rich individuals, from Nigeria and elsewhere, who are keen on buying iconic pieces, has led to a bifurcated market with London serving as the centre for top-selling artworks while Lagos caters to the middle-market. We reckon this trend will continue.”

The typical middle income Nigerian has a passion for high-end luxury brands. And it’s expected that more rich Nigerians will want to buy art for a combination of different reasons: passion, prestige and profit. According to a 2014 survey by Standard Chartered Bank, Nigerians in the middle-income category are optimistic about their economic well-being and are stand-out among others surveyed (Indians, Indonesians, Kenyans, Ghanaians) for their aspiration for pleasure among other desires.

Highlights from the Nigeria Art Market Report

  • In 2014 the value of artworks sold at auctions in Lagos, by both Nigerian and non-Nigerian artists, was $1.67 million, a 3% decline from the previous year despite the debut auction of Sogal in 2014.
  • In Lagos sales at the bi-annual Arthouse auction dropped by 20% to $1.1 million in 2014 from $1.40 million in 2013. Similarly, sales at TKMG declined by 20% to $260,000 in 2014 from $326,000 in 2013. The debut auction of Sogal brought in $301,319.
  • Although Bonhams Africa Now auction sales declined by 17%, more than half of the lots sold were by artists from Nigeria:artworks by 39 Nigerian artists generated $1.3 million.
  • Artworks by 130 Nigerian artists accounted for 91% ($2.98 million) of auction sales and 79% (249) of auction volume in both Lagos and London.
  • Most of the artworks sold in Lagos were within the $10,000 range while in artworks sold in London within the $50,000 to $100,000 bracket slightly increased.
  • Modern and contemporary artists from Nigeria dominate the top-end of auction sales – the highest selling artworks at Arthouse, Bonhams, TKMG and Sogal respectively were: El Anatsui, Mask, 1978 ($78,375); Ben Enwonwu, Princes of Mali, 1976($138,870); Bruce Onabrakpeya, Dance in the Bush, 1998($24,784) and Okwoju El-Dragg, Untitled, 1992 ($28,681).
  • Sell-through rates i.e., the number of artworks bought as a percentage of lots offered, indicate a strong market particularly works made by established artists.
  • With the advantage of London’s expertise, infrastructure and network of clientele, Bonhams is likely to remain the centre for top-selling Nigerian artworks.
  • In Nigeria, the limited number of galleries and physical spaces is affecting how, where and when exhibitions are held. Most galleries in Nigeria are based in Lagos, 55% are located in Victoria Island.
  • The market, despite challenges, is vibrant; a number of galleries are getting professional with plans to attend more international fairs. Rele, a new gallery, opened on Lagos Island.
  • Demand from a growing number of multimillionaire Nigerians and non-Nigerians based in Nigeria is partly responsible for the growth of the secondary market.

The Foundation for Contemporary and Modern Visual Arts is a non-profit organisation set up to promote contemporary and modern visual arts from Nigeria through multimedia: documenting artworks, publishing books and videos which serve as a credible and reliable repository of Nigerian artists and their artworks and provide dependable information for art enthusiasts, artists, collectors etc.

For access to the full report, contact Tayo Fagbule via email : [email protected].