East Africa auction illustrates growth in region

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One of the first commercial art auctions to take place in east Africa has resulted in buyers spending some $200,000. Organisers said the event demonstrated the growing interest in art in the region.

Some 90% of the 47 words auctioned were sold, the most expensive, a painting called ‘Celebration’ by the late Ugandan artist Geoffrey Mukasa, selling for around $20,000. The event, organised by Circle Art, took place in the Kenyan capital Nairobi.

Held in a ballroom-sized venue at a five-star Nairobi hotel, the auction attracted several hundred potential buyers. Kenyan artists dominated in the sale but Ethiopia, Tanzania, Uganda and Sudan were also represented.

More than half of works sold were to local collectors, with many Kenyans using absentee bidders to buy the art. Some pieces went for three or four times their catalogue price.

The auction is the latest sign of a growing interest in east African art. London auction house Bonhams earlier this year sold the work of eight leading Kenyan artists on the eve of its Africa Now sale of contemporary African art.