PARIS – Piasa will hold its Africa & Modern & Contemporary Art sale on May 19. For the first time in the context of a contemporary African art sale in Paris, this auction will present the work of two major African American artists: Beauford Delaney, the great African American painter of the post-war period, and Kehinde Wiley, a rising figure on the other side of the Atlantic who, among other achievements, painted the famous portrait of American President Barack Obama that hangs in the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. Absentee and Internet live bidding will be available through LiveAuctioneers.
Beyond the presence of Wiley and Delaney, the sale is marked by the inclusion of artists from the School of Dakar in Senegal to the historic Hangar Studio in Congo, bringing together an overview of nearly a century of African Art. While questioning the preconceived ideas about what African art is today, this sale aims to put the continent in dialogue with its diasporas and various other related scenes. The vision of a cosmopolitan African continent, open to the world, underlines the desire for openness announced by the two directors, Olivia Anani and Charlotte Lidon, who were appointed to the head of the department last January.
Notable lots include Wiley’s 2007 painting Ivelaw I, from his series The World Stage: China. Carrying an estimate of €100,000-€150,000, it is one of the first examples of a project that led the celebrated American artist to Dakar and Lagos, Jamaica, Israel, France, India, and Sri Lanka. In parallel with the creation of one of his satellite studios in Beijing, where he has spent several months a year since 2006, Wiley, who is fluent in Mandarin, sought to explore with this series the history of political propaganda under the Chinese Cultural Revolution. An African American, with a Nigerian father, revisiting Eurocentric icons of art history from studios in Beijing, New York, and Dakar, Kehinde Wiley the artist, like the work, is a bridge between worlds and invites us to question preconceived notions of identity, class, and gender.
Also featured in the auction is Beauford Delaney’s 1970 oil on canvas Pikoula Vassiliki, estimated at €150,000-€200,000. Author James Baldwin spoke of the artist, his friend and mentor, in 1964: “I learned about light from Beauford Delaney, the light contained in every thing, in every surface, in every face.” This portrait with expressionist accents dates from the Parisian period of Beauford Delaney, a major figure in post-war American art, who, like many black artists and personalities, found himself in France, fleeing the segregation and racism of the United States. In Paris, he met with personalities such as the jazz musician Ornette Coleman, who can be seen posing in front of our painting, or the gallery owner Darthea Speyer, who introduced artists such as Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, and Sam Gilliam to Paris.
James Barnor, an iconic figure in African photography, is credited with introducing color photography to Ghana in the early 1970s. Two of his most famous photos will appear in the Piasa sale for the first time on the secondary market. Miss Sophia Salomon, shot in Accra around 1972, is estimated at €15,000-€20,000, and a 1967 black-and-white titled Mike Eghan at Piccadilly Circus is estimated at €6,000-€8,000.
Paul Kodjo, another important figure in continental photography, stands out from his peers for his photo novels. The May 19 auction will present three, two of which are unpublished. An excerpt from the 1973 photo novel Lost and Found is estimated at €5,000-€7,000. The strength of composition and mastery of light give Kodjo’s photographs a singular atmosphere of film noir like that of Martin Scorsese.
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