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Top 5 African Art Pieces Sold in Sotheby’s October Auction

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According to Statista, Africa is projected to contribute over £12 billion to the Global Art market. African contemporary art is creating a mark in the world and October’s auction at Sotheby’s is an example of that. The top bids from the October edition of the auction include master’s like Iba N’Diaye and Yusuf Grillo. 

The top 5 sales from Africa in October are as follows:

  1. Iba N’Diaye, Senegal (b. 1928 – 2008). Sold at £176,400.
Juan de Pareja agresse par des chiens, 1982, oil on canvas, 162 x 130cm

“To paint, for me, was to discover what others did before learning, and to understand the language of the profession I was entering.” – Iba N’Diaye, 2002.

This piece refers to ‘Portrait of Juan de Pareja’ by Velasquez. N’Diaye is recognized as one of the founders of École de Dakar, he is celebrated as a father of Senegalese contemporary art. N’diaye studied both in Senegal and Paris. He is known for abstract and figurative paintings, while implementing music themes. N’diaye’s work speaks to the artist’s emotional reaction to situations brought on by life.

  1. Yusuf Grillo, Nigeria (b. 1934 – 2021). Sold for £151,200.
Mother and child, 1970, oil on board, 81.5 x 61.7cm

Grillo is known as one of the founders of the Zaria Arts Society, which was later referred to as the “Zaria Rebels”. The goal of the Zaria Rebels was to change the status quo from what was being taught in class. These teachings were done by European expatriates in the College of Arts, Science and Technology, Zaria. He studied in both Nigeria and the United Kingdom. Grillo later returned to Nigeria to teach and head the department of Art in Yaba College of Technology. Grillo is also the founder of Society of Nigerian Artists in 1964. He is celebrated as one of Nigeria’s most renowned contemporary artists. 

“I go back to my works over and over again and if I find a hand should come out more than it already is, I re-do it; if I see other parts that need definition or correction, I go back to it. I try as much as possible to achieve perfection. Not that one ever gets there.” Grillo, 2015.

  1. Ouattara Watts, Ivorian/American (b. 1957). Sold for £88,200.
Dance of the Chaman #2, 1999, mixed media and photo on canvas, 260 x 202.5cm

Growing up in 3 different countries (Ivory Coast, America and Paris), Watts is heavily influenced by the elements he was surrounded by as a child. The artist moved to Paris to study in L’École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Art. Later on, Watts and Jean-Michel Basquiat met in the late 1980s in Ivory Coast and became friends. Basquiat was the one who convinced Watts to move to New York, where the artist still resides. Watts’ work is inspired by Mark Rothko, spiritualism and ancient symbols. The artist’s piece, Afrobeat, (2011) was sold for a little over £600,000 at a Christie’s evening auction earlier in the year, paving the way for more pieces to be sold at a higher value. 

“To me, work is essential. Work comes first. The star system has no appeal. If I could exhibit without being present, I would. Art also means healing peoples’ minds. It has a certain therapeutic function. It is not me that people come to see. They come for my paintings. That is what I like to instill.” Watts, 2019.

  1. Abdoulaye Aboudia Diarrassouba, Ivory Coast (b.1983). Sold for £88,200
Untitled, 2018, mixed media on canvas 142.5 x 178.5cm

Based in New York, the Ivorian-born artist draws inspiration from the street art of his home country. Abdouia work drew the attention of the world, during the civil unrest in 2011, from the presidential election. Abdouia used his voice to describe the situation in his country via his paintings. Abdouia uses newspapers and magazine cut outs. The artist references “Nouchi” in his work, which is a contemporary West African, francophone iconography. His main subject matter are children. 

‘You have to show that, despite the pain and the sadness and the suffering, these children are happy.That’s what I do with color, show the joy of these children. I’m treating something negative with joy, with color, with verve.’ – Abdouia, 2022

  1. Abdoulaye Aboudia Diarrassouba, Ivory Coast (b.1983). Sold for £75,600.
Cubist Mouth III, 2014, acrylic and oil pastel on canvas 177.8 x 142.2cm

Aboudia has a foundation in Bingerville, Ivory Coast called  La Fondation Aboudia. The foundation is dedicated to helping children have better access to education, provide food and doctors where needed.

All images are courtesy of Sotheby’s. More on the auction can be found on the Sotheby’s website, here 


Azeeza Sanni is the General Manager of Art News Africa. She is a graduate of Middlesex University of Mauritius & Monash South Africa. You can reach her with information/requests on

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