Leonce Raphael Agbodjelou, Untitled, 2012. From the series “Demoiselles de Port-Novo.”

Sotheby’s to Hold First-Ever Modern and Contemporary African Art Sale

Sotheby’s has announced that it will stage its first-ever sale of modern and contemporary African work. Taking place in London on May 16, the auction will feature pieces by more than sixty artists from fourteen countries across the continent, including Algeria, Ghana, Mali, Senegal, Ethiopia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Zimbabwe.

“The marketplace for modern and contemporary art from Africa has transformed dramatically over the past decade, but despite this long-overdue correction, there’s still a considerable way to go towards addressing the underrepresentation of African artists, who account for just 0.01 percent of the international art market,” Hannah O’Leary, Sotheby’s head of modern and contemporary African art, said.

O’Leary said that the auction was organized in direct response to the “exponential increase in market demand from collectors in Africa and the African diaspora, as well as international art collectors and influencers who are embracing art from Africa as exciting, innovative, and relevant.”

Highlights of the sale include work by some artists who are not well-known, such as Beninese artist Leonce Raphael Agbodjelou, who has never had a work sold at auction before (a piece from his “Demoiselles de Port-Novo” series is estimated to sell for between $5,000 and $7,000), and by others such as William Kentridge, whose work netted $1.5 million at a Sotheby’s New York auction in 2013.

Among the other artists included in the sale are El Anatsui, Ben Enwonwu, Meschac Gaba, Abdoulaye Konaté, Wosene Worke Kosrof, Chéri Samba, Yinka Shonibare Mbe, and Irma Stern.