In October 2020 three auctions took place to coincide with 1;54 Contemporary African Art fair in London, which manifested as a live event pared with online platforms facilitating sales. Sotheby’s Modern & Contemporary African sale took place online from 2 to 9 October. Bonhams equivalent was live at their London office on 8 October. Piasa's sale took place on 7 October at their Paris office, although, as with Bonhams, online bidding was accommodated. This report looks at the results of these auctions collectively, isolating the patterns and realities they present.
The global auction market has taken a huge knock, with an estimated loss in turnover in the first quarter of 49% (this pertains to the major auction houses Sotheby’s, Christies and Phillips). How has the secondary market for African art fared? Has the average price of artworks in this category also decreased and which artists works are exceeding estimates? Is there a price barrier? Are modern works still fetching the high prices they did earlier in the year?
These are some of the questions this new report is aimed to address. Results are contextualised and complemented by commentary from the auctioneers in question.