What you need to know:
- Tinga Tinga died at the age of 40, and the limited supply of his art is bound to drive the value up as time goes by.
- Most buyers purchase the artworks for aesthetic appeal or for investment where they can resale at future auctions.
Circle Art Gallery in Nairobi’s Riara Road was on Wednesday abuzz with art buyers and collectors bidding for paintings, sculptures, drawings and prints being sold on auction.
The Art Auction East Africa saw art buyers spend Sh23.4 million, defying the harsh economic times that have seen spending on non-essential items reduced. A majority of the artworks on sale were pre-owned pieces.
Out of the 45 artworks brought to the auction, untitled paintings by the late Tanzanian artist Edward Saidi Tingatinga who died in 1972, were the most expensive, selling at Sh2.13 million.
His works remain popular with art collectors.
In 2019, a Tinga Tinga painting attracted public attention when it sold at a whopping Sh5.6million, the highest amount that any East African artwork has sold for in a Nairobi auction. The untitled painting was of an ‘Elephant eating from the Marula Tree’.
Tinga Tinga died at the age of 40, and the limited supply of his art is bound to drive the value up as time goes by.
There was also excitement for the late Rosemary Karuga’s "Mother and Child" clay sculpture that was finally sold at Sh1.44 million from a reserve price of Sh609,200.
Gakunju Kaigwa’s Kisii soapstone sculpture "Chai Moto" also fetched a good price at Sh1.17 million. Other artworks that sold for Sh1 million and above include an abstract painting "Nature" by Uganda’s Joseph Ntensibe which attained a Sh1.06 million price.
The late Ancent Soi’s painting called "Feeding Flamingos" sold at Sh837,100. Soi was one of Kenya’s earliest and most well-known contemporary artists, and he passed away in 2022 aged 85 years.
He once said in an interview, “I paint to please myself. If other people like them, I am flattered but it is not very important.”
Art buyers may have spent over Sh23.4 million but this is a drop from previous years. Last year, the artworks fetched Sh30.5 million, although the pieces sold then were more than this year. It had about 60 lots.
“Sales were harder this year and there was less bidding,” said Danda Jaroljmek, director of Circle Art Gallery. “This has been the case at most of the African art auctions internationally, this year.”
Nevertheless, the sale rate was approximately 70 per cent, which is “better than expected for this year,” said Ms Jaroljmek.
Most of the items were from seasoned and deceased artists, but even newcomers were successful: such as Sukuro Etale whose "Kilifi Fishermen" painting was sold for Sh894,001 ($5,870), and Georges Ebrin Adingra’s oil and sand on canvas painting called Dance – "What a World of Emotions", at Sh319,830 ($2,100).
The art pieces come mainly from private collections and a few directly from artists. The event attracts strong interest locally and from around the world, including bidders in Europe, Asia and North America.
Most buyers purchase the artworks for aesthetic appeal or for investment where they can resale at future auctions.