Arriving on the art market that has a growing interest for African paintings, these young artists are amongst the rising stars of contemporary African art. They are represented by solid international galleries and emerging more quickly than their elders. Here is a list of African artists who have attracted the most attention this year, with works sold at very substantial prices.
Most Expensive Artwork: Hands Up (2018), sold for $3.4 million on November 2021 at Christie’s Hong Kong.
Amoako Boafo was born in Accra, Ghana in 1984. He studied art and design in Accra, before completing a MFA in Vienna, Austria. Boafo explores themes of Black identity and diversity through the portraying of individuals from Africa and its Diaspora. His portraits are notable for their bold colors and patterns, which simply and emotionally capture the daily life of his subjects. Boafo’s first painting sold was presented by Phillips at an auction held in February 2020. Since then, his work has been offered at a variety of auctions, with multiple paintings sold above the estimated price such as Baba Diop (2019) which fetched $1.14 million at Christie’s Hong Kong on December 2020.
Toyin Ojih Odutola
Most Expensive Artwork: Through Line (2017), sold for $2.2 million on 2017, Sotheby’s New York
Toyin Ojih Odutola was born in Ife, Nigeria in 1985. She grew up in the United States and studied fine arts in San Francisco. Odutola mostly paints and draws detailed portraits using black layers that depict the skin and complexity of her subjects’ personalities. Inspired by comics and manga, she works in narrative series to create a sense of character and an extended universe. Her works started to appear in auctions three years ago, achieving successful sales in high figures. Her drawing Eastern Entrance (2016) was sold for $833,000 on April 2021, a record that was broken later this year.
Njideka Akunyili Crosby
Most Expensive Artwork: Bush Babies (2017), sold for $3.4 million on May 2018, Sotheby’s New York
Njideka Akunyili Crosby was born in Enugu, Nigeria in 1983. She studied art and biology in the United States, and decided to pursue a career in art instead of medicine. Akunyili Crosby’s work is shaped by her diasporic experience and continued contact with her homeland culture. Her large-scale paintings and drawings depict intimate domestic scenes populated by her family, friends, and people she has encountered through her life. In March 2017, a painting representing her sister titled The Beautiful Ones (2012) was sold for $3 million at Christie’s London. Demand for her work has continued to grow since 2016, prompting her prices to soar at auction.
Most Expensive Artwork: The Conservationists (2015), sold for $1.52 million on April 2021, Sotheby’s New York
Michael Armitage was born in Nairobi, Kenya in 1984. He studied fine art in London, England where he started his artistic career. The artist reflects on social and political issues faced by the society with an emphasis on social problems that many choose to deny. In his paintings, Armitage weaves narratives influenced by personal memories and folklore from Africa. In 2019, his work Necklacing (2016) which depicts a common lynching practice in South Africa during the apartheid was presented at the Venice Biennale. A few months later, his painting The Conservationists (2015) was sold around 25 times its estimated price for the artist’s first appearance at auction.
Most Expensive Artwork: Skye waNehanda I (2017), sold for $487,000 on April 2021, Sotheby’s Hong Kong
Kudzanai-Violet Hwami was born in Gutu, Zimbabwe in 1993. She grew up in South Africa before moving to England where she studied visual arts. In 2019, she was one of four artists participating in the Zimbabwe pavilion at the Venice Biennale. Hwami work explores themes of identity, spirituality, and the representation of the Black body. Many of her paintings such as The Egg (2016) feature images of her extended family, reformulating the genre of portraiture around the Black body. That painting was sold for $226,000 by Phillips Hong Kong on June 2021. Some of Hwami’s paintings have changed hands multiple times, illustrating the market’s enthusiasm for her work.