Giles Peppiatt, the art specialist responsible for creating an international market for Contemporary African art, will give a press presentation at Alara on 22nd April in Lagos. Peppiatt holds the only specialist auctions of Modern and Contemporary African art outside of Africa. He will address the question of why there has been such a huge global rise in value of African art generally and Nigerian art in particular in recent years.
Bonhams, one of the original Georgian auction houses founded in 1793, is one of the three largest fine art auction houses in the world. We have a staff of 800 in 27 countries, on five continents. We sell in 60 specialist categories from Classic Cars to Chinese Porcelain; and everything you can imagine in between. Last year we made the following world records: £28m for a Ferrari 250 GTO, £7.2m for a blue diamond and £17.2m for a Fragonard.
Peppiat says: “What we continue to see is a new ‘Scramble for Africa’; no longer for land, gold or diamonds, but for art. The scramble I am talking about, is a rather different kind of tussle, one that is making art a viable occupation for artists across Africa, bringing hope to communities in many of its 54 nations. It is a new development taking the message of African ingenuity to the wider world – a rather different message the kind the world has grown used to hearing from Africa. It has been our very great privilege to play a small part in taking that message to the wider art market.”
He said he is coming to Lagos to speak about the revolution in African art that we have lived through this past decade, and indeed which Bonhams has had a hand in forging. “It has been eight years since we started offering African Art in London and the market has changed beyond recognition in that time. So I think it is a good time to take stock and look at the African art market; at what has been achieved and what we might expect to come.
Our decision to start specialist African art sales in Europe paid off almost immediately with the first sale totaling £1.5 million. Soon the auctions were grossing £10 million and we were seeing numerous world records. Currently we hold world records for all major African artists.
People regularly ask how we have done this. How is it that works by African artists which sold for figures around £10,000 ten years ago now go for hundreds of thousand pounds? We have set world records for all major artists in this field: Ben Enwonwu; Yusuf Grillo, El Anatsui, Kolade Oshinowo, Uche Okeke the list goes on and on.
Nigeria has led the way in this revolution with artists and prices that have dominated the results coming out of Africa. Why is this? That question is one that I put recently to three successful Nigerian businessmen who were standing with me at a cocktail party on the roof of the new Zeitz museum of African contemporary art under construction in Cape Town.
Why, I asked does Nigeria produce so many successful people including some of the continents most successful artists. They were unanimous in their answer. Amid a lot of laughter they said: “In a country of 170 million people you have to hustle to get ahead. And secondly Nigerians don’t like taking ‘No!’ for an answer. We find ways round no, creative ways,” they said laughing. And they are right. One can see that creative spirit at work in Nigeria’s leading artists.”