Sign of change

Julie Mehretu and El Anatsui’s in the art market’s speculative sphere

Art Market | Both eminent figures of the contemporary art scene in Africa, coming from different generations, Julie Mehretu and El Anatsui have incorporated the art market’s speculative sphere by fetching top prices at auction sales. This trend, observed by the 2015 Africa Art Market Report, reached its tipping point around the year 2010.

Julie Mehretu, Retopistics: A Renegade Excavation (2001), vendue 4.603.750 USD par Christie’s New York en 2013 (estimations: 1.400.000 - 1.800.000 USD) © 2007 Julie Mehretu, courtesy The Project, New York
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Julie Mehretu, Retopistics: A Renegade Excavation (2001), vendue 4.603.750 USD par Christie’s New York en 2013 (estimations: 1.400.000 - 1.800.000 USD)
© 2007 Julie Mehretu, courtesy The Project, New York

Over the period 2003-2016, Ethiopian artist Julie Mehretu, who works with large format paintings, sold 84 lots at auction for a total of $36,425,525 (95% of this amount corresponds to sales made in the last six years). In 2012, the artist reached her first million-dollar sale in the secondary market with the artwork Untitled 1 (2001) sold by Sotheby’s New York for $1,022,500. Since then,15 works by Mehretu have exceeded a million dollars in auction sales, including the current record holder piece Retopistics : A Renegade Excavation (2001), sold in 2013 by Christie’s New York for $4,603,750. The Ghanaian artist El Anatsui, known for working with recycled materials, saw an important increase in his market value in 2012, when four of his six pieces to be auctioned found buyers for more that $700,000 each. The artist, who was awarded the Golden Lion in 2015 at the Venice Biennale to commemorate his career, has sold six lots that have surpassed the million-dollar mark in the last four years. At the moment, El Anatsui’s record sale belongs to his work Paths to the okro farm (2006) which was sold by Sotheby’s New York for $1,445,000 in 2013.

However, there have been signs of a declining performance in the secondary market, especially in the case of El Anatsui’s work. In 2016, almost half of the artist’s lots held at auction remained unsold. Compared with results from the previous year, it is the first time the volume of sales falls below the sum of the low estimates ($ 2.501,794 versus $ 2,669,224), revealing depreciations that are unprecedented for certain high-value works such as Delta (2010), estimated at between $900,00 and $1,200,00.

Vincent Kozsilovics
Publié le 13/02/2017
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Julie Mehretu, Retopistics: A Renegade Excavation (2001), vendue 4.603.750 USD par Christie’s New York en 2013 (estimations: 1.400.000 - 1.800.000 USD) © 2007 Julie Mehretu, courtesy The Project, New York El Anatsui, Paths to Okro Farm, 2006 © El Anatsui. Courtesy of the artist and Ja

Julie Mehretu, Retopistics: A Renegade Excavation (2001), vendue 4.603.750 USD par Christie’s New York en 2013 (estimations: 1.400.000 - 1.800.000 USD)
© 2007 Julie Mehretu, courtesy The Project, New York

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