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Ethiopian Artist Julie Mehretu Breaks African Art Record for Second Time with $10.7m Sale

Julie Mehretu creates large-scale works that blend many media and surfaces to create abstract landscapes, drawing influence from a wide range of sources such as architectural designs, images, city maps, and more.

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Calligraphy, graffiti, and street art can be found in her two-dimensional works with varied characters. Mehretu’s works also investigate the sociopolitical ramifications of our urban environment’s history.

The 52-year-old was born in Ethiopia but immigrated to the United States in 1977, during the height of political unrest. She has risen to become one of the most powerful figures in the field of contemporary African art, breaking records in the creative arena.

She just set the auction record for the highest amount paid for a painting by an African-born artist. According to the BBC, her abstract painting Walkers With the Dawn and Morning sold for $10.7 million on Wednesday at Sotheby’s in New York.

Walkers With the Dawn and Morning was produced by Mehretu in 2005. It was part of a show made in reaction to Hurricane Katrina’s devastation of New Orleans.

Two bidders battled for the auctioned item, with the eventual record-breaking figure of $10.7 million when fees were included. According to the BBC, she broke the previous record of $9.3 million set last month.

According to the platform, the record sale demonstrates a great interest in modern African art. “We are moving beyond that initial phase to something more discerning,” Sotheby’s modern and contemporary African art department director Hannah O’Leary told Art Newspaper.

Langston Hughes, a famous Harlem Renaissance poet, inspired the title Walkers With the Dawn and Morning.

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