For quite a while, craftsmanship was not viewed as a practical calling in numerous African nations, with many guardians and parents forcing their youngsters to pick “real professions”, for example, medicine, law, engineering, and more. But in recent years, modern African art carvings and paintings have started to feature in the international market, with many pieces fetching millions of dollars.
Here, we put together a list of the top seven highest-selling African art pieces of all time.
- Senufo Female Statue
Created by celebrated Ivorian artist Master of Sinasso in the late-19th century, the Senufo Female Statue is one of the most iconic African effigies in history: its minimalist lines help viewers visualize the concept of timeless African female beauty. It sold for a whopping $12 million at the Sotheby auction in New York in 2014.
2. Fang Ngil Mask
Carved in the 19th century by the Gabonese Fang people, the Fang Ngil Mask sold for $7.5 million in Paris, France, in 2006. The mask is an iconic art piece that represents an important part of Gabon’s history: it was usually worn by men of the same name during the initiation of members of a certain age group and the persecution of wrongdoers.
3. Arab Priest
The Arab Priest is an art painting created by the renowned South African artist Irma Stern in 1945. It was sold to Iziko Museums in Qatar in 2011 at a cost of $4.8 million, making it one of the most expensive pieces of African art. It is also one of the most significant creations by Stern as it represents the colonial period in South Africa. The painting is still considered a national treasure in South Africa.
4. Muminia Lega Mask
The Muminia Lega Mask is a rare masterpiece by Alexis Bonew, a renowned artist from the Democratic Republic of Congo. It was sold at Sotheby’s auction in Paris, France, in 2014 at a cost of $4.4 million. This mask belongs to the category of traditional wooden masks used as Bwami initiation objects by the Lega people in DRC.
5. Bahora Girl
Created in 1945 by world-renowned South African artist Irma Stern, the Bahora Girl was sold to a private South African art collector for $3.6 million at Bonhams‘ auction house in London in October 2010. Born in 1894 in Transvaal Province, South Africa, to German-Jewish immigrants, Stern remains one of the most celebrated African artists, with most of her paintings depicting exotic faces and bodies that continue to entice the Western art world up to this day.
6. The Teacher
The Teacher is a provocative piece depicting a rare class picture taken in South Africa during artist Marlene Duma’s childhood. It is considered a national treasure as it depicts the politics of the South African Apartheid era when Duma was growing up. The portrait was sold to a private collector in 2005 at a cost of $3.3 million.
7. Daily Mirror Sculptures
The Daily Mirror Sculptures are seven wooden life-size figures carved by renowned Nigerian sculptor Ben Enwonwu more than 50 years ago. These statues were commissioned by the Daily Mirror and sold to a private African art collector for £300,000 at an auction in 2013. The sculptures had gone missing from the Daily Mirror’s old headquarters in Holborn, Central London, in the early 1960s only to be found hidden under a pile of garbage at the Kray twin’s old school in 2012.
Credit: Face2Face Africa