Africa

Kenyan art auction held in Nairobi

Art works to be auctioned (4 November 2013)
Image caption Piece from artists in Kenya, Ethiopia, Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda are for sale

Kenya is holding its first commercial auction of East African art in the capital, Nairobi, with 47 works going under the hammer.

Prices are expected to range from several hundred dollars for some pieces up to more than $28,000 (£17,400).

The auction is a sign of the growing profile of the region's art scene, as well as the growth of a a wealthy elite, experts say.

International collectors are increasingly focusing on African art.

Last month, London hosted the first international fair dedicated to modern and contemporary African art.

Earlier this year, London auction house Bonhams sold the work of eight leading Kenyan artists at a charity auction.

'Hidden treasures'

The works of Kenyan artists will dominate the auction, but artists from Ethiopia, Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda will also be featured.

The Circle Art Agency, which is organising the auction at Nairobi's Kempinski Hotel later on Tuesday, says some of the works for sale have not been seen in public for decades.

"There are some hidden treasures that form part of Kenya's cultural history dating from 1967 to 2013," it said.

"Over the last few months we travelled to numerous places in search of exceptional works, many of which were buried away in artist's studios in neighbouring towns or hanging on hidden corridors in collectors' homes," Danda Jaroljmek, from Circle Art Agency, told Kenya's Star newspaper.

One of the most expensive items going up for sale is a sculpture called Dancing Warrior by the late, influential Kenyan artist Samuel Wanjau.

It is expected to fetch between $25,000 and $28,500.

"His work and career is emblematic of a time when artists were breaking away from the mass production of co-operatives and finding distinctive individual voices," the auction notes say.

Lot 47 is entitled Auction by Kenyan artist Michael Soi, who painted it to celebrate Tuesday's sale.

Some of his most widely collected paintings are from a recent series called China Loves Africa, The Circle Art Agency says.

He has also tackled controversial issues like the cases of Kenya's leaders at the International Criminal Court and is currently painting a series on prostitution.

"I do not create controversy; I just create work that revolves around things that I see. So, I want to believe that society itself is creating the controversy, all I'm doing is just documenting it," he told the AFP news agency.

It is not only those in East Africa's growing art scene who have welcomed the Nairobi auction.

"I think it's very exciting, and I think from an investor's point of view, and someone who appreciates art, I think it's only going one way, and that's going higher," Aly-Khan Satchu, an investment adviser in Nairobi, told AFP.

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