Welcome to my column, Art as an Alternative Investment. Here you will find the latest news and insider intelligence on the African art market including auction reports and art transaction prices. I will also be investigating major trends and showcasing the artists and key professionals who drive the industry, as art from the continent continues to gain increased global attention and command staggering fees on the international market. For the serious collector, informed investor, and fudiciaries in wealth management and family offices this column aims to provide an overview on art as a credible store of value. I will give readers a how-to guide on integrating art collection as a viable part of a wealth building strategy. It is no secret that savvy investors are allocating a growing part of their portfolios to art. This column will give a step by step tour on art as an alternative asset class.
There is no better way to begin than with the top 10 sales of artworks sold on the domestic market in Nigeria.
The secondary art market in Nigeria has experienced significant growth since the art auction, Before the Hammer Falls organized by Nimbus Gallery in December, 1999 at MUSON Centre in Lagos. From then on, there have been other successful sales by several auction houses in Nigeria.
Founded in 2007, market leader, Arthouse Contemporary holds the record priceof N30.8 million ($192,500) buyer’s premium inclusive for the highest sold work in Nigeria in its November, 2011. The sum was achieved for Ben Enwonwu’s iconic bronze sculpture, Anyanwu (142.2cm) created between 1954 and 1955.
Indeed, the artist holds the top four spots for art sales in sculpture, Fulani Girl (78cm) is at second place with N17.1 ($106,563) against its previous estimate of N12,000,000 to 15,000,000 ($75,000- $93,750). The sale took place
at Arthouse in November 2013. Third is Enwonwu’s The Drummer (89cm). Made in fiber glass it sold at N14.3 million ($89,375) against its previous estimate of N12 million – N15 million ($75,000-$93,750) at the same sale.
The fourth spot is occupied by Ben Enwonwu’s Untitled (37.5 x 32cm) 1980, ink on paper painting with the hammer
price of N13.5 million ($84,375). It was sold in May, 2011 at Terra Kulture’s art auction against its previous estimate of N8 million to N9 million ($50,000 –$56,250).
El Anatsui takes the fifth and sixth slots. His 2013 wood and aluminium panels, Ends and Means Committee (217x106cm) sold in November, 2013 for N13.2 million ($82,500) at Arthouse. It was estimated to go under the hammer at between N12 million to N15 million ($75,000-$93,750) while his 1992 wooden panels, Grandma’s Cloth Series VI (132 x 262 cm) estimated between N8 million to N10 million ($ 50,000- $62,500) achieved the sum of N12.54 million ($78,375) at Arthouse in November of 2012.
Next is Greater Nigeria, a 2007 bronze foil (208.5 x 442.5 cm) by Bruce Onobrakpeya, estimated between N4.4 million – N5.5 million ($37,200-$46,500). It sold at N10.12 million ($63,104.5), at Arthouse in April, 2008.
Demas Nwoko breaks into the top 10 at 8th place. His wooden sculpture, The Wise Man, (72.4 cm) fetched a sum of
N9.9 million ($61,732) against its previous estimate of N5 million– N6 million ($32,258- $38,710) at Arthouse’s November, 2010 sale.
Tying in at 9th place with N8.8 million ($55,000) buyer’s premium inclusive, are; Ben Enwonwu’s 1980 bronze
sculpture, Africa Dances (102.9cm); his 1960 painting, Untitled, (109.2 x 43.2cm); and Yusuf Grillo’s 1966 oil, Blue Moon, (60 x 60cm).
The works were previously estimated at N6 million to N7.8 million ($40,000-$52,000); N8 million to N9 million; and N7.5 million to N8.5 million ($62,500-$70,830) respectively. They sold at Arthouse’s sales of May, 2011; November, 2011; and November, 2008 in that order. El Anatsui rounds up the top 10 with his clay sculpture, Nsukka Shrine, (57 x 44 x5cm) which achieved a sum of N8.58 million, ($53,625), at Arthouse May, 2014 sale, against its previous estimate of N 7 million – N9 million ($43,750-$56,250).
These results are compiled from auctions held in Nigeria over 6 years. In this period, positive interest in the market has been sustained and it appears that buyers are willing to compete strongly for classic examples of works by the older and established artists. The recent successes recorded on the domestic scene are alreadinginfluencing prices for Nigerian art on the international market. For example, in May last year, Bonhams, the international auction house, sold Enwonwu’s The Mirror Sculptures in wood, for £361,000 ($560,000) at its Africa Now sale. It is undeniable that among the cognoscenti, authentic art pieces by recognised Nigerian artists are commanding a higher premium for both their critically acclaimed aesthetic value, and as an enduring store of value.