Writing Art History Since 2002

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On 6th June, Artcurial will hold its Twenty One Contemporary auction, including creations by major international living artists alongside fifteen exceptional works from the Africa First collection (lots 31 to 45).

Lot 43: Sadikou Oukpedjo (Togolese – Born in 1975), Armure 1, 2018. Mixed media on canvas; signed and dated on the reverse. 52.75 × 48.82 in. Estimate: 12 000 € – 18 000 €

Founded in 2017 by Serge Tiroche, the Africa First collection illustrates the vitality and diversity of art from the African continent. After several years of research and acquisitions, Serge Tiroche decided to make his collection a major player in the African contemporary scene through an online promotional platform but also a program of residencies, exhibitions and cutting-edge collaborations with international stature museums and galleries.

Today, the collection comprises almost 600 works by some 200 artists from the continent and the diaspora and acts as an incredible source of referrals and active support for artists. 

The artists from the collection presented in Artcurial’s auction were discovered by Africa First at the very beginning of their careers. Among the works on sale are those by Julien Creuzet, Aimé Mpane and Sadikou Oukpedjo, currently representing their countries at the Venice Biennale, a tapestry by Athi-Patra Ruga which has been exhibited at La Fondation Louis Vuitton, and an emblematic wall installation by Ibrahim Mahama.

Athi-Patra Ruga

Lot 34: Athi-Patra Ruga (South African – Born in 1984), The Exile According to the Elder, 2014. Wool, artificial flowers and threads on tapestry canvas. 86.61 × 72.44 in. Estimate: 25 000 € – 35 000 €

Athi-Patra Ruga is a South African artist born in 1984. Most of his works are linked to the mythology of “Azania,” a utopian dreamland with a matriarchal system, which he uses to rewrite his personal history within the broader framework of the traumas of Apartheid and the collective history of South Africa. 

The tapestry The Exile According to the Elder offered for the auction depicts the character “the Elder,” the only male figure in Azania, and is also a self-portrait of the artist. In this invented mythology, “the Elder” is in exile after Azania’s First War. This tutelary figure echoes the story of his father, who was himself in exile during South Africa’s liberation struggle. Through the materials used, the artist underlines the ambivalence of this situation of exile, sad in its uprooting but also rich in the new cultural experiences it brings. The abundance of artificial flowers and the predominance of black evoke mourning, an image of hieratic devotion, while the accumulation of jewels and the staging blur the lines and lead us toward the vision of a pop-culture icon. 

Julien Creuzet

Lot 33: Julien Creuzet (French – Born in 1986), Solitary, sun, memory, solid (the inseperable feathered ones separated, the messages never arrived, today it is necessary to smile), 2019. Engraving and paper collage on laminated plywood; signed, dated and titled on the reverse. 74.80 × 55.12 × 0.79 in. Estimate: 25 000 € – 35 000 €

Julien Creuzet is a Franco-Caribbean artist born in 1986. His work was recently the subject of a solo exhibition at the LUMA Foundation in Zurich (2023). Chosen to represent France at the Venice Biennale 2024, Julien Creuzet is the first artist from the French overseas territories to occupy the historic pavilion. 

The panel entitled Solitary, Sun, Memory, Solid (the inseparable feathered ones separated, the messages never arrived, today it is necessary to smile) was created during the artist’s residency at the Centre d’Art de Neuchâtel (Switzerland, September 2019). The composition is punctuated by scattered and glued book pages, which the artist then sandblasted. On the smooth, luminous lemon-yellow surface, a sinuous engraved design reveals the raw material and unfolds like a visual interpretation of the poem the artist wrote as the title of the piece. In this work, we find the essence of Julien Creuzet’s art: poetry as a starting point and thread, but also enigmatic drawings charged with symbolism. Cutting-edge techniques and raw materials intermingle to deliver this incredibly powerful panel tinged with voodoo culture.

Ibrahim Mahama

Lot 39: Ibrahim Mahama (Ghanaian – Born in 1987), SOSSG, 2016. Coal sacks with marking and cloth. 88.58 × 125.98 in. Estimate: 25 000 € – 35 000 €

Born in 1987 in Tamale, Ghana, Ibrahim Mahama takes a keen interest in common materials, whose flows and constants enable him to examine the politics of migration and globalization.

The piece entitled SOSSG is based on the artist’s preferred materials. These burlap bags, manufactured in South-East Asia, are imported en masse by Ghana for the transit of cocoa beans. After this initial use, the bags are reused to transport rice, seeds, and, at the end of their “life”, coal. Marked by their various uses and owners, these bags represent the hands that have handled them, the silent labour of the workers. The variations in texture, colour, and wear tell us the unique stories and trajectories of each of them. By assembling all these remnants of our daily lives, Mahama suggests that every human imprint left is intentional and invites us to observe the poetry of uniqueness in a multitude.

Lot 44: Aimé Mpane (Congolese – Born in 1968), Kinoct VI, X et XV, 2011. Triptych, acrylic and pigments on hand-carved wood; each signed, dated and titled on the reverse; 12.6 × 11.8 in. (each). Estimate: 6 000 € – 8 000 €

Other artists from the Africa First collection included in the Twenty One Contemporary auction are Ephrem Solomon, Tafadzwa Masudi, Kutlo Mabua, Option Nyahunzvi, Tuli Mekondjo, Serge Attukwei Clottey, Marion Boehm, Salah Elmur, Sadikou Oukpedjo, and Aimé Mpane.

For more information on the sale, please visit Artcurial.

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