Market Brief: What’s Fueling Nigerian Artist Dennis Osadebe’s Global Demand
Collector demand for Dennis Osadebe’s radiant works depicting stylized scenes of contemporary Nigerian life surged on Artsy last week, with the number of users inquiring about the artist’s work on the platform tripling from the week before. Known for figurative scenes rendered with an electric color palette and flat picture planes, Osadebe—whose work also references Pop aesthetics and traditional Nigerian crafts—has seen his star ascend in the past two years. The surging interest on Artsy comes amid a growing presence on the primary and secondary markets, and a rapidly rising profile beyond the art world.
- Osadebe’s work made its secondary-market debut in October 2019 with the HK$25,000 (nearly US$3,200) sale of Lunch Break (2019), depicting a masked figure eating cotton candy against a color-blocked wall, at a Phillips sale in Hong Kong. The work, featuring the self-taught artist’s signature technique of layering acrylic paint on a digitally composed scene, surpassed its high estimate of HK$2,500.
- Two months later, three of the Lagos-based artist’s chromatic works were offered at Taipei-based Holly’s International Auctions Co. Two of the paintings failed to sell, but a third—a 2019 work depicting a sartorial figure dancing in a radiant domestic setting—crept above its high estimate of ¥30,000 (almost $4,300) to achieve a price of ¥32,200 (about $4,600). To date, that remains Osadebe’s top auction record.
- In December 2020, Christopher Moller Gallery devoted a solo booth at the online-only edition of the Untitled, Art Miami Beach fair to half a dozen Osadebe works featuring figures partaking in outdoor activities. The Cape Town–based gallery, which had staged its first solo show with Osadebe earlier in the year, priced the works at UNTITLED from $445 for a new circular print to $16,320 for the largest painting, Playhouse (2020).
- Primary-market prices for Osadebe’s work still outpace secondary-market prices, but that may be changing given recent auction results for his prints. Earlier this month, an edition of the artist’s striking print Enjoy Yourself (2021) sold for $4,000—over three times its high estimate—at Heritage Auctions’s urban art sale, becoming the second-most expensive work by Osadebe at auction.
- This accelerating secondary-market demand is paralleled on Artsy, where collector interest for Osadebe’s bold, multicolored compositions surged in 2019—the year of his auction debut—and has continued to grow dramatically since. In 2020, the number of collectors who inquired on his work on the platform more than tripled year over year. Thus far in 2021, that number is on track to surpass last year’s peak.
Osadebe’s ascent shows no signs of slowing. This past August, tennis superstar Naomi Osaka commissioned him to create a new work for the cover of Racquet Magazine’s 17th issue. Osaka has also acquired a few pieces by Osadebe, which hang in her home. Earlier this month, three of the artist’s paintings—priced between €8,525 ($10,000) and €29,825 ($35,000)—were featured in the Berlin Art Week pop-up fair MISA Discoveries; all of them sold. And just last week, Osadebe’s work was being showcased in Christopher Moller Gallery’s group booth at the online edition of the Investec Cape Town Art Fair. Soon, in partnership with the gallery, Osadebe will debut new sculptural works, giving collectors another opportunity to acquire fresh pieces by the sought-after artist.