Piasa’s Contemporary African art auction exceeds expectation with €1M sales.

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Cristiano Mangovo Brás, Les cartes, 2018
Cristiano Mangovo Brás, Les cartes, 2018. Image from Piasa’s catalogue

The 8th edition of Piasa’s dedicated African Art auction closed with €1Million sales, above the total pre-sales high estimate of €885,900.

Piasa’s excellent Contemporary African Art sales were driven by 52% of the artwork being sold for at least twice their high estimate, largely making up for the 32% (53 lots) that had remained unsold.

According to Christophe Person of Piasa, with “the result prices for many artists 3 to 10 times the estimate, [they] see now serious art collectors are starting to look at Contemporary African art and pay the price for pieces that they find interesting and that they want.”

The records of the afternoon went to two artworks: Les cartes, 2018 of Cristiano Mangovo Brás (above) and Moom ak Ndiougoup bi by Kassou Seydou (Below). Both were sold for 7 times their high estimates.

Kassou Seydou, Moom ak Ndiougoup bi, 2018
Kassou Seydou, Moom ak Ndiougoup bi, 2018. Image from Piasa’s catalogue.

Other highlights include Tete by the emerging Ivorian artist Aboudia whose work usualy perform well at auction and Dieudonné Sana Wambeti’s Le Regret. All auctioned off for 5 times their high estimate.

Dieudonne Sana Wambeti, Le Regret, 2015, Images from Piasa's Catalog
Dieudonne Sana Wambeti, Le Regret, 2015, image from Piasa’s catalogue.

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) whose buoyant art scene came to wider international attention with the Beauté Congo exhibition at the Foundation Cartier in Paris in 2015/2016, has been heavily featured in dedicated African art auctions since, including here at Piasa. Of the 145 lots, 23 (15%) were by artists from The DRC, and 16 have been sold. The surprise came with the selling price of JP Mika’s couple, sold for €32,500, near the €33,800 achieved by the celebrated artist, Cheri Samba’s Adorateur.

JP Mika, Couple, 2015
JP Mika, Couple, 2015. From Piasa’s catalogue

These results constitute a remarkable turn around for the auction house after a previously disappointing African Art auction in April that brought in €654,362 far below a low total estimate of nearly €1M (€982,601).

The results also stand in sharp contrast with Cornette de Saint Cyr’s African art auction in October. Like Christie’s, the Belgian auction house came out against dedicated African art sales. Therefore, it incorporated the African Collection Kleine-Gunk into a more extensive contemporary art auction. The specific African art section achieved €330,720 against a low estimate of €394, 000.

Going back to the latest Piasa auction, its highlights couldn’t deter from the relatively low prices in the catalog. 90% of all artworks were estimated between €7,000 and €9,000; with 50% of the artworks estimated between €3000 and €5000. The most expensive piece was one of Ben Enwonwu’s sculptures estimated between €30,000 and €50,000. It was not sold.

To put that into context, 50% of the artworks were estimated between £8,000 and £13,750, (approximately €9,000 and €15,500) at Sotheby’s latest Modern and Contemporary African Art auction. These figures are closer to the overall median price for a contemporary work of $12,500 (approximately €11,000) according to the 2018 Art Basel and UBS market report.

The low estimated prices at Piasa somehow echoed some of the concerns voiced at the AKAA fair in Paris. Despite a successful 3rd edition, there were reports that several galleries struggled to sell artworks whose prices were north of €5,000.

In an email, Christophe Person stated that the pre-sales estimates are the outcome of discussions and they are “fixed according to what [they] believe [would] be attractive. But results can reach much higher levels for good pieces.”

It is possible that a potential repelling effect of a high price tag might be location specific; especially in light of 1:54 Art Fair London’s curatorial and commercial success. After all, the African art segment is still in its infancy, and it is far too early to draw any definite conclusion at this stage. Both Piasa and Sotheby’s dedicated African auction only started in 2016.  What is certain is that these new sales records established at Piasa are welcome good news within the African art segment. They will contribute to nudging upwards the valuation of the work by African artists, and that is a good omen for the future.

Next, we will bring you the results of the latest Modern and Contemporary African art auction held at Arthouse in Lagos on Tuesday November 20th.

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