Market place for exceptional art from the region to the world
|DOMINIC MUWANGUZI | The much anticipated auction for the East Africa art scene dubbed `Circle Art Auction’ is here. This year is the 6th edition and it has more bidding lots; 59, and new entrants from seven countries. The expansion indicates growing interest in Modern and Contemporary East African art from both the continent and international.
The Auction seeks to propel the industry by fostering positive competition among artists and exposing them to the international market. For Ugandan artists like Geoffrey Xenson who have consistently participated and sold their art at the auction, it is a scene of endless opportunity. Art buyers looking for art that is fresh and affordable are expected from all over the world.
It is opportunity for young or “not too experienced artists” to find new markets. Artists like Wasswa Donald aka Waswad (UG) and Wilson Mwangi (KE) share the same space with masters like Jak Katarikawe, Geoffrey Mukasa and George Lilanga of the Tingatinga fame. It is a rare that the little known artists will sell but their participation signals their potential. They will be accomplished artists tomorrow.
Some are already showcasing impressive artworks. Ian Mwesiga participated as a young artist in 2018 and his art has since emerged at the frontline of major auctions like the PIASA Auction in Paris.
In the past, artists like Geoffrey Mukasa, Xenson, Peterson Kamwathi and the Tingatinga masters have dominated the auction. Last year, they sold almost US$2 million. This time, Jak Katarikawe- recently deceased and featuring a single entry titled “Untitled” is in the mix. He is at Lot 38 against seasoned coveted artist –also deceased- Geoffrey Mukasa whose two entries into the competition are at Lot 6 and 7 respectively. There are also rare and exceptional works from artists like Fabian Mpagi and Samuel Wanjau. Waswad this time has hardwood sculptures of elephants that evoke the narrative of environment sustainability through conservation.
Jak Katarikawe’s “Untitled” (undated) painting is a cheeky composition of a rural scene where nubile women are entertaining an audience of male figures who are sipping on a local brew. The party mood in the countryside and the men gawking or whispering mischievously at the sight of sharp-piercing breasts bouncing off the chests of the dancers is conveyed with subtle imagery.
In contrast, Mukasa’s painting of `The artist’s Home’ (1993) is a study of the lush vegetation with wild trees and thick canopy almost shielding the small house sitting idly in the background. The painting is dreamy, with romantic allusions. `Under Palm Leaf’ (2003-5) is a still life execution of regular and irregular objects done in amateurish fashion, possibly the artist way of suggesting simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.
The annual Circle Art Auction also known as the Modern and Contemporary art auction is organised by Circle Art Agency. This year the auction takes place on March 5 at the Radisson Blu Hotel in Upper Hill, Nairobi.