Where seasoned artists usually meet the wealthy buyers

By: LILIAN OCHIENG

If you’re an artist, you have probably visualised your drawing or painting displayed at a major auction as wealthy buyers price each other out of the deal.

The bidding is usually furious, the hard sound of the hammer signifies a record sale and the news goes viral.

The late Ugandan artist Geoffrey Mukasa could be enjoying the thrill of his sale now; early this month, a piece of his work was the best seller, attracting Sh1.8 million at a Nairobi auction, the Circle Art Gallery.

It is six years after his death, but he is still minting millions of shillings from art lovers worldwide.

THE THRILL OF ART AUCTIONS

“What makes the auction so special is not just the thrill gotten from it but the variety of creative pieces of art dating back 1969, with their prices ranging between Sh70,000 and Sh2 million,” said the director, Circle Art Gallery, Ms Danda Jaroljmek.

Perhaps your interests have not been appreciated as an artist, but you can earn a living through art and establish a following the world over just like Mr Mukasa.

Experts in this trade say that for your art to be accepted at an auction, you must be represented by a gallery, have a solid collector base, consistent sale history, favourable reviews and you must also have attended a number of art expos.

“Your piece must tell a story, it should also be well organised and interesting. The time of its release is not quite a consideration,” added Ms Jaroljmek.

At this year’s Circle auction held in early November, the 50 pieces of art exhibited attracted Sh19.5 million with Mr Mukasa’s work named ‘At Home’ and Sudanese artist Rashid Diab’s piece ‘Out of Focus’ attracting the best price, Sh1.8 million each.

FULL-TIME JOB

Majority of the artists, who showcased their works, have embraced art as a full-time job.

The collection at the auction ranges from sculptured models to paintings and canvas modelled to interest the wealthy, creative art collectors across the globe.

Besides Circle Art Gallery one can also exhibit contemporary African art at Kuona Trust, Nairobi Gallery and Shifteye.

At the Circle Art auction, Kenya’s Mr Joseph Mbatia, who began his career in his teens painting signs for bars, butcheries and beauty parlours, exhibited his works.

Mr Mbatia, who goes by the stage name Bertiers has risen from the struggles in the slums to riches. His least expensive painting goes for Sh80,000.

HUMOUR THROUGH PAINTINGS

“I concentrate on newsworthy happenings around me and create humour out of them through paintings, I also do sculptures,’ said Mr Mbatia told Money.

Among his humour art works is “Painting a Cat – I Really Hate It”.

This according to him, suggests that only brushing paint on live cats could be worse than sign painting.

Art has taken Mr Mbatia to Germany, Denmark, France, Finland, US, and Norway where he has met varied artists who have helped sharpen his skills.

His painting style combines humour, current affairs, expressed in simple art and issues that date back to the 90s.

“I am full of passion for art, I never stop, my paintings are varied and range from topics on heroes, domestic happiness, marital life, national tragedies and politics,” he said.

At the Circle Art auction, his scrap metal sculpture — The Hawkers — sold at Sh234,800. It shows a police truck rounding up street-sellers who aren’t allowed to do business after 10.30pm.

Mr Mbatia is a living example that art pays. He is among a group of Kenyans who are benefiting from the super wealthy in Kenya, a group that is keen on spending millions of shillings on art.

The wealthy group goes around the globe such as London’s Bonhams auction as well as Nigeria’s Arthouse, collecting creative pieces of art.

In November, 350 art lovers from Germany, France and Britain met at Circle Art Auction, in its third year, at Villa Rosa Kempinski hotel.

The works of Kenyan artists dominated the auction but artists from Uganda, Tanzania, Sudan, Ethiopia and Namibia also featured.

The auctions have received immense support from banks such as CFC Stanbic Bank, I&M Bank among others. Standard Chartered Bank was the lead sponsor for the 2015 auction.

SOURCE: DAILY NATION