Artist dossier: Malick Sidibé

Last week, we analyzed auction results for celebrated Nigerian artist, Yusuf Grillo, taking a look at indications of future values for his paintings. In the past we have also looked at photography as a good investment asset in the collector’s portfolio.

This week, we will explore the life and work of one of the most iconic figures in African photography, Malick Sidibé. In achieving our objectives, results of auction sales of his work from major international auction houses such as Bonhams, The Auction Room and Christies will be examined.

Malian photographer, Malick Sidibé is best known for his black-and-white studies of popular culture in Bamako. Born in 1935 into a Peul (Fulani) family in a small village in Soloba, he graduated from school in 1952. He later completed his studies in Design and Jewelry at the École des Artisans Soudanais in Bamako. In 1955, he served an apprenticeship at Gérard Guillat–Guignard’s Photo Service Boutique, known famously as Gégé la Pellicule. The following year, he took up photography as a profession.

In 1958, he opened his own studio called Studio Malick in Bamako, specializing in documentary photography and focusing on the youth culture of the Malian capital. By the 1970s, he had turned his attention towards studio portraiture.

Sidibé gained increased photography recognition through the first meeting on African photography held in Mali in 1994. His work has since been exhibited extensively across Africa, Europe, the United States and Japan.

Sidibé has also received several awards including the Hasselblad Award for photography (2003), 52nd Venice Biennale’s Golden Lion (2007), and the ICP infinity award for lifetime Achievement (2008). His works are in the collection of several prominent institutions and museums and form part of the Jean Pigozzi Contemporary African Art Collection (CAAC).

In a fitting tribute, in 2006, Tigerlily Films made a documentary, Dolce Vita Africana on him at work in his studio in Bamako. The documentary also features him discussing his work at a reunion with many of his friends and former photographic subjects.

Close observations of prices for photographs on the international market by Malick Sidibé reveal an increasing interest from collectors. In November 2002, Christie’s Paris, Photographies included Les Nouveaux Circoncis by Sidibé in its sale, which realized the sum of €1,880 (N183,227).

This rise in interest from collectors has led to growing prices for the photographer’s work. In April 2010, Christie’s New York sale of Selections from the Baio Collection of Photography included Sidibé’s Les Vrais Lycéennes, Bal Fin d’Année, Lycée de Filles (1966). It sold for $2,500 (N372,165) against its presales estimate of $2,000 (N297,732).

Subsequent sales of Sidibé’s work include Le deux amis (1971) which fetched a princely sum of €3,250 (N654,403) at Christie’s Paris October 2012 sale, Rendez-vous Interieurs contemporains. The photograph was previously estimated at €2,500 (N503,387).

The year 2013 was also an eventful one for Malick Sidibé on the auction market. Some of the highlights include Bonhams’ May 22, 2013 Africa Now sale, where a set of three signed photographs, Yokoro (1970), Danseur Mérengué
(1964) and Les deux soeurs en même tenue (1977), each made in gelatin print, sold for £2,250 (N534,850, including buyer’s premium). Another important highlight is the sale of Hercule Africain(1970), silver gelatin print, at £2,233 (N530,809) previously estimated between £2,000 – 3,000, (N475,422 – 713,133). The photograph was sold at The Auction Room with almost all the photographs selling approximately 20% above their initial estimates.

In 2014, Sidibé’s Yokoro (2006), gelatin silver print was sold for $5,000 (N804,760, including buyer’s premium). This result underscores the growing appreciation for Sidibé’s life work, which spans about 6 decades, as well as an increasing global interest in photography from the continent.

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