The hybrid art auction earns 23 million shillings


The hybrid art auction earns 23 million shillings

Art Gallery

Jason Jabbor, an art lover at the Radisson Blu Arboretum Hotel. November 9, 2021. PHOTOS | JEFF ANGOTE | NMG



  • Art buyers spent Sh 23.18 million on Tuesday at an auction held at Nairobi’s Radisson Blu Arboretum.
  • Circle Art Gallery’s ninth East African art auction challenged pandemic fears of slow spending on collectibles.
  • Serious bidders made a proposal for ES Tingatinga’s “Rhino” painting, which was ultimately sold for 3.17 million shillings.

Art buyers spent Sh 23.18 million on Tuesday at an auction held at Nairobi’s Radisson Blu Arboretum.

Circle Art Gallery’s ninth East African art auction challenged pandemic fears of slow spending on collectibles.

Serious bidders made a proposal for ES Tingatinga’s “Rhino” painting, which was ultimately sold for 3.17 million shillings.

Geoffrey Mukasa’s untitled painting “Blue Beauties” sold for Sh2.6 million, Salah El Mur’s “Iris Flower” for Sh1.6 million, and there was even a bidding war for “Man against City” by Ehoodi Kichapi, with the winner paying Sh1 0.5 million for the oil on canvas, a work similar to Basquiat created by Kichapi in 2008.

Other notable sales include “A Kiss”, Tingatinga’s second painting created by the late Tanzanian artist which went for Sh1.05 million, Peterson Kamwathi’s “Monument II” for Sh798.320 and the bicycle sculpture “Blue Mamba” by Cyrus Kabiru which sold for Sh821,800 which will be donated to Kabiru’s Art Orodha Art Center.

Cyrus’ was one of three donations. The other was by the Ethiopian artist, Tamrat Gezahegne, whose painting, ‘Adorned Body’ was sold for Sh493.080, which will be donated to the African Arts Trust. The other donated item that was auctioned off last night was a rare 26-year-old bottle of Glenfiddich whiskey, which went for Sh 50,000.

Art Gallery

Physical and online

This year’s art auction was a hybrid deal, meaning bidders were not only able to compete for their favorite artwork in person with a paddle in hand.

They could also call by phone, a method that has been mainly used by international bidders. They could also bid online through the popular art auction platform, Invaluable.

“This is what we did last October,” Danda Jaroljmek told BD Life a day before the auction.

“It was the first time we put the auction online and it worked very well,” added the founder-curator and executive director of both Circle Art Gallery and Art Auction East Africa. The October auction was something of an experiment, as the Covid-19 block was still active.

But it proved that art lovers and potential buyers did not need to be on hand to physically assist Kenyan auctioneer Chilson Wamoja managing all the East African art lots (60 last Tuesday evening) to take part from the comfort of their own. living room or bedroom.

Like so many companies that have found Covid-19 to be both a curse and a blessing in disguise, Ms. Jaroljmek and her team had to learn lessons and new ways of working during the pandemic.


“We were heading in that direction [of online auctioning] Anyway, after seeing how all the major auction houses, from Bonham’s to Sotheby’s, have been holding their auctions online for some time, “he said.

However, October was a revelation that opened their eyes to the immense possibilities of conducting this hybrid art auction.

“We now have more bids coming in from around the world,” said Chilson, who has conducted the auction for the past seven years.

“We have always had international bidders, but the numbers have increased over the past two years,” he added.

Putting the art auction on the Invaluable online platform is one of the factors that has expanded global awareness of East African art. It also allowed anyone who signed up with Invaluable to watch the entire auction and place their bids online in real time.

Don Handa, the gallery owner of Circle Art, was looking at the offers on the website as they arrived at Invaluable, explained Ms. Jaroljmek and passed them to Chilson who looked at the phone lines and bidders in the room at the Radisson Blu.

The success of this year’s art auction, which topped last year’s pre-Covid 22.2 million shillings, shows the growing interest in East African art.

There has been a steady increase in interest in East African art since the auction began in 2013. Such interest has increasingly come from around the world.

“We have had news from Uganda, Tanzania, Ghana, Nigeria and South Africa, as well as from Switzerland, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, the United States and Australia, as well as Qatar and Dubai,” said Ms. Jaroljmek.


When asked by BDLife what she thought caused the exponential appeal of regional art and auction, she said there were many factors. One was signing up with Invaluable as many art collectors and serious investors are aware of the website and follow it closely.

“We also signed with Artsy [another leading art news online platform], “She added.

Another factor was social media and the other big problem was the global trend of growing interest in African art.

“There is no doubt that [art lovers] are following global trends in contemporary art, “he said.” First it was Chinese art, then Indian art came and now there is a new interest in African art. It has impacted our work “, he added.

According to local art collector and investor Tony Wainaina, Africa has gained more attention in the global art world because it is carefully viewed as the “last frontier” for exploring contemporary art.

Noting that not a week goes by without calls from new voices expressing interest in East African art, Ms Jaroljmek added that art fairs have also had an impact on raising awareness of the existence of African art. Oriental.

In recent years, she [often with her assistant Don Handa] he has participated in about twenty art fairs, raising the profile of contemporary East African art in the process.

“Right now we are present in the art fairs in Paris and Dubai. And we just finished another one in London, where works by Dickson Otieno, Shabu Mwangi, Tahir Karmali, Jackie Karuti and several Ugandans and Sudanese all went well, “he said, noting that all of Otieno’s sculptures were sold.

Secondary market

Ms. Jaroljmek said that nearly two-thirds of the works auctioned on Tuesday evening arrived as part of the secondary market. The Circle Art catalogs contained detailed information about the art and the artist.

It is also mentioned who has the provenance or previous ownership of the work and if it came from a private collection or directly from the artist himself.

“Technically, most art auctions only include works from the secondary market,” said Ms. Jaroljmek, who has included original works from the same artists from the start.

Among them were several well-known local artists, including Sane Wadu, Cyrus Kabiru, Edward Njenga, Kaafiri Kariuki, Tabitha wa Thuku. Ehoodi Kichapi’s “Man against City” came to Circle as part of the secondary. But either way, his painting surpassed all expectations in sales and sparked one of several dramatic bidding battles between those who were physically at auction and those who were online or on the phone.


But for Ms. Jaroljmek, the inclusion of art that comes from the artist is meant to nurture local talent and cultivate a secondary market.

“One way to promote the idea of ​​art as a valuable investment is to cultivate a dynamic secondary market where collectors can come and sell their art and make a profit,” he explained.

For Mr. Wainaina, more care from artists is needed to further develop the local art scene.

“We need more art dealers, agents and top-notch galleries,” he notes.

But his other concern is the fact that there are many wealthy Kenyans who could easily invest in East African art and who don’t.

“These are people who still hang calendars on the walls as if they were works of art,” he said in a telephone interview shortly before the auction.

“They need to learn that there are other things to invest in besides land and stocks,” Wainaina said. He added that young Kenyans who have been overseas and been exposed to the international art world are more likely to participate in an art auction and fill the walls of their homes with African art. But the older and richer elites have yet to be awakened to what they are losing.

Like Ms. Jaroljmek, she noted that international auction houses have done their part to spark public interest in contemporary African art. However, he added that Bonham’s was the best at conducting auctions focusing on East African art, while Sotheby’s is still passionate about South African and West African art.

However, both houses have taken the initiative to put African art auctions online and demonstrate that there is a market for art.


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