RESILIENCE OF CURRENT ART AUCTIONS.

By Nii B. Andrews.

The art auction market remains vibrant and the sale of high priced quality art work continues.

Auction houses have in the recent past strongly cultivated online platforms such that established collectors are willing to effect purchases without the physical engagement and premium life style settings and trimmings of fairs, shows and exhibitions.

We should all by now understand how difficult it is to sip champagne while wearing a face mask!

The perception that only less valuable work was sold at internet auction is now a thing of the past.

On Thursday last week, yet again in New York – at the contemporary art sale held at Philips, two pieces by Ghanaian artists sold significantly above their estimates.

The evening’s hour-long sale brought 25 lots led by auctioneer, Henry Highley, and saw an overall 100% sell-through rate; the auction realized a total figure of $41 million, meeting the high pre-sale estimate.

SHADE OF BLACK: Otis Kwame Kye Quaicoe, oil on canvas, 122.2 x 91.4 cm, 2018; signed “Kwame Kye” lower right; further signed and dated “KWAME KYE MARCH 2018” on the reverse.

First, SHADE OF BLACK by Otis Kwame Kye Quaicoe (pre-auction estimate USD 20 -30K) sold for USD 250K including fees.

Quaicoe with his single figures against a monochrome impasto-rich expanse is one of the exciting young talents on the international scene today with respect to figurative art.

The auction catalog states:

“Shade of Black is a work from Quaicoe’s series of cowboys, and likely portrays model David Theodore, who wore a similar ensemble for a 2019 photoshoot. 

As all of the artist’s figures, the present subject is depicted with conspicuously vibrant sartorial choices, donning a bright purple jacket atop a tangerine turtleneck, outfitted with a straw yellow cowboy hat.

The lush treatment of these garments harmonizes with Quaicoe’s rendering of black skin—replete with golden, coral, and burgundy tonalities.”

JOY IN BLACK: Amoako Boafo, oil on canvas, 207 x 196.2 cm, 2019; signed, inscribed and dated “AMOAKO M BOAFO 2019 KING” center right.

Second, Amoako Boafo’s painting, JOY IN PURPLE, sold for USD 668K including fees; the pre-auction estimate was USD 50-70K.

The painting which is part of his “Black Diaspora” series furthers his enquiry into representation and identity. It is painted in luscious blues, browns, and violets.

The monochromatic backgrounds and his figure’s clothing are done with brushes, but he paints the subjects themselves directly with his fingers. “I am trying to find ways to celebrate individuality, which is reflective in my technique”, he explained.

Another painting by Boafo, “The Lemon Bathing Suit” set his record at more than $800,000 during Phillips’ February New Now sale.

Boafo’s work is in the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, and the Albertina Museum, Vienna.

Bennett Roberts, the co-owner of Los Angeles gallery – Robert Project, has worked with both Boafo and Quaicoe.

Kehinde Wiley, with whom Roberts began working in 2000, first introduced the dealer to Boafo; and Boafo then introduced the dealer to his friend and fellow painter, Quaicoe.

“Was I shocked? Yes,” Bennett Roberts said in response to the staggering figure for Quaicoe’s work in Thursday night’s sale as reported by artmarketmonitor.

“It’s way too early. I think it’s by virtue of his magnificent talent. He didn’t just spring out, he had many years of painting where no one cared at all, he couldn’t get a studio visit, they had no attention paid to him.”

Noting the aggressive market interest in artists of African descent as “a new phenomenon”; Roberts adds that the high market numbers are a separate concern from the artist’s long-term development.

“We don’t chase the money, we focus on the talent being survivable over interests, or tastes, or passion” said Roberts.

Quaicoe has not yet had a solo show in New York.

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