Hybrid art auction brings in 23 million shillings



Hybrid art auction brings in 23 million shillings

Jason Jabbor, an art enthusiast at the Radisson Blu Arboretum Hotel. November 9, 2021. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE | NMG



  • Art buyers spent 23.18 million shillings on Tuesday at an auction held at the Radisson Blu Arboretum in Nairobi.
  • Circle Art Gallery‘s 9th East African art auction defied pandemic fears of sluggish spending on collectibles.
  • Serious bidders pitched ES Tingatinga’s Untitled ‘Rhino’ painting which ultimately sold for Sh3.17 million.

Art buyers spent 23.18 million shillings on Tuesday at an auction held at the Radisson Blu Arboretum in Nairobi.

Circle Art Gallery’s 9th East African art auction defied pandemic fears of sluggish spending on collectibles.

Serious bidders pitched ES Tingatinga’s Untitled ‘Rhino’ painting which ultimately sold for Sh3.17 million.

Geoffrey Mukasa’s “Blue Beauties” painting sold for 2.6 million shillings, Salah El Mur’s “iris flower” for 1.6 million shillings, and there was even a bidding war. for “the man against the city” of Edhoodi Kichapi, the winner paying 1 shilling. 0.5 million for the oil on canvas à la Basquiat created by Kichapi in 2008.

Art Gallery

Other notable sales include “A Kiss”, the second Tingatinga painting created by the late Tanzanian artist for 1.05 million shillings, the “Monument II” by Peterson Kamwathi for 798,320 sh and the bicycle sculpture “Blue Mamba ”by Cyrus Kabiru which sold for 821 sh 800 which will be donated to the Art Orodha art center in Kabiru.

Cyrus was one of the three gifts. The other was the work of Ethiopian artist Tamrat Gezahegne whose painting, “Orned Body” sold for Sh 493,080, which will be donated to the African Arts Trust. The other donated item that was auctioned off last night was a rare bottle of 26 year old Glenfiddich whiskey which cost 50,000 Sh.

Art Galeries

Physical and online

This year’s art auction was a hybrid affair, meaning bidders couldn’t just compete for their favorite artwork in person with a paddle in hand.

They could also call by phone, a method that was mainly used by international bidders. They could even bid online through the folk art auction platform, Invaluable.

“This is what we did last October,” Danda Jaroljmek told BDLife a day before the auction.

“This was the first time that we had put the auction online and it worked very well,” added the founder-curator and executive director of the Circle Art Gallery and the Art Auction East Africa. The October auction was sort of an experiment, given that the Covid-19 lockdown was still ongoing.

But it proved that art lovers and potential buyers did not need to be on hand to physically witness Kenyan auctioneer Chilson Wamoja handling all lots of East African art (60 last Tuesday night) to participate in the comfort of their living room or bedroom.

Like so many companies that had found Covid-19 to be both a curse and a blessing in disguise, Ms Jaroljmek and her team had to learn lessons and new ways of working during the pandemic.

Art Gallery

“We were going in this direction [of online auctioning] anyway, having seen how all the big auction houses, from Bonham’s to Sotheby’s, have been running their auctions online for quite some time, ”she said.

Nonetheless, October was a revelation that opened their eyes to the immense possibilities of leading this hybrid art auction.

“We now have more bids coming from all over the world,” said Chilson, who has led the auction for the past seven years.

“We have always had international bidders, but their number has increased over the past two years,” he added.

Putting the art auction on the Invaluable online platform is a factor that has broadened global awareness of East African art. It also allowed anyone who signed up for Invaluable to watch the entire auction and place their bids online in real time.

Don Handa, Circle Art’s gallery manager monitored the bids on the website as they arrived at Invaluable, Ms. Jaroljmek explained, and forwarded them to Chilson who was monitoring the phone lines as well as the bidders in the room. Radisson Blu.

The success of this year’s art auction, which exceeded 22.2 million shillings in pre-Covid revenue last year, shows growing interest in East African art.

There has been a steady increase in interest in East African art since the auction began in 2013. This interest is increasingly coming from around the world.

“We heard from Uganda, Tanzania, Ghana, Nigeria and South Africa as well as Switzerland, France, Germany, UK, US and Australia, as well as Qatar and Dubai, ”said Jaroljmek.

Art Gallery

When asked by BDLife what she thought caused the exponential fascination with regional art and auctioning, she replied that there were many factors. One of them was signing with Invaluable because many serious art collectors and investors are familiar with the website and follow it closely.

“We have also signed with Artsy [another leading art news online platform], “she added.

Another factor was social media, and the other big problem was the global trend of increasing interest in African art.

“There is little doubt that [art lovers] follow global trends in contemporary art, ”she said. “It used to be Chinese art, then Indian art, and now there is a new interest in African art. It had an impact on our work, ”she added.

According to art collector and local investor Tony Wainaina, Africa has attracted more attention in the global art world because it is precisely seen as “the last frontier” for exploring contemporary art.

Noting that not a week goes by without new voices expressing their interest in East African art, Jaroljmek added that the art fairs have also had an impact in raising awareness of the existence of the East African art.

In recent years, she [often with her assistant Don Handa] participated in some twenty art fairs, thus raising the profile of contemporary art in East Africa.

“At the moment, we are present in art fairs in Paris and Dubai. And we just finished another one in London where the works of Dickson Otieno, Shabu Mwangi, Tahir Karmali, Jackie Karuti as well as several Ugandans and Sudanese have all performed well, ”she said, noting that all the sculptures made of Otieno wire were sold.

Secondary market

Ms Jaroljmek said nearly two-thirds of the works auctioned on Tuesday evening came from the secondary market. Circle Art’s catalogs contained detailed information about the art and the artist.

It also mentioned who has the provenance or previous ownership of the work and whether it came from a private collection or directly from the artist himself.

“Technically, most art auctions only include aftermarket works,” said Ms. Jaroljmek, who from the start has included original works from the artists themselves.

Among them were several well-known local artists, including Sane Wadu, Cyrus Kabiru, Edward Njenga, Kaafiri Kariuki, Tabitha wa Thuku. Edhoodi Kichapi’s “Man Against City” came to Circle in high school. But in any case, his painting exceeded all sales expectations and sparked one of many dramatic auction battles between those who were physically present at the auction and those who were online or on the phone. .

Art Gallery

But for Ms. Jaroljmek, including art that comes from the artist is meant to nurture local talent as well as cultivate a secondary market.

“One way to promote the idea of ​​art as a valuable investment is to cultivate a vibrant secondary market where collectors can come and sell their art and make a profit,” she explained.

For Mr. Wainaina, artists need to be encouraged more to further develop the local art scene.

“We need more top-notch art dealers, agents and galleries,” he notes.

But his other concern is the fact that there are a lot of wealthy Kenyans who could easily invest in East African art who don’t.

“These are people who still hang calendars on their walls as if they were works of art,” he said in a telephone interview shortly before the auction.

“They have to learn that there are other things to invest in besides land and stocks,” Wainaina said. He added that young Kenyans who have been abroad and been exposed to the international art world are more likely to attend an art auction and fill their walls with African art. But the older and richer elites have yet to be awakened to what they lack.

Like Ms. Jaroljmek, he noted that international auction houses have done their part to generate public interest in contemporary African art. However, he added that Bonham’s has been the best at organizing auctions focused on East African art while Sotheby’s is still passionate about South African and African art. ‘Where is.

However, the two houses have taken the initiative to put African art auctions online and prove that there is a market for art.


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