October 24, 2019
The growing success of female African artists marks an exciting shift in the market.
Recent research suggests that, for African artists, it pays to be female. Contrary to markets in the US and Europe where male artists command higher prices, there are four women who lead the auction table: Marlene Dumas ($6.3m), Julie Mehretu ($5.6m), Irma Stern ($4m) and Njideka Akunyili Crosby ($3.4m).
On auction sales of Modern and contemporary African art between 2016 and 2019, the average price for female artists was consistently higher than for males. In 2019, women fetch on average $91,338, compared with $19,555 for men. However, the number of lots sold by male artists in 2019 far outweighs those by women: 680 versus just 131.
The young Nigerian artist Njideka Akunyili Crosby is a case in point. According to the Wall Street Journal, her paintings—usually executed on paper—were selling for $3,000 just five years ago. Two years after being signed by the Victoria Miro gallery, Akunyili Crosby first appeared at auction in September 2016, when an untitled work from 2011 sold for nearly $100,000 with fees. Within two months she broke the $1m mark and within six months her work was selling for more than $3m. She achieved her record for a richly layered botanical collage, (2017), at Sotheby’s in New York in May 2018 (see image on the left).
Against all odds, Akunyili Crosby can now enjoy her success!