Market Brief: Oluwole Omofemi’s Paintings Break Auction Records Two Months in a Row
Oluwole Omofemi, Soul Meditation II, 2018. Courtesy of Christie’s Images Ltd.
Last Wednesday, Oluwole Omofemi’s arresting painting of five female figures laying with their eyes closed, Soul Meditation II (2018), set a new auction record for the Nigerian artist, selling for £27,500 ($38,000) at Christie’s “First Open” online sale. That result, which smashed a record set just three weeks prior, was nearly seven times the auction house’s high estimate for the work. This recent auction activity is indicative of the skyrocketing demand for the early-career artist’s bold and fanciful paintings, which only started appearing on the secondary market a little over a year ago.
- Omofemi’s work made its secondary-market debut in June 2020, when his large-scale canvas Just for two (2019) sold for €7,150 ($8,060)—over two times its low estimate—in a sale at French auction house Piasa. This modest auction debut came on the heels of Omofemi’s second-ever solo gallery show, which inaugurated Signature African Art’s new London outpost earlier in the spring.
- In addition to his auction debut and sophomore solo show, the artist’s work was featured in the group exhibition “Say My Name.” which was presented by renowned filmmaker Ava DuVernay and Signature African Art in London last fall and in L.A. this past February. Omofemi’s work in the show, which sold for an undisclosed price, featured a grid of nine portrait paintings of George Floyd, the Minneapolis man whose murder by a police officer set off global protests for racial justice, with zippers affixed over the figure’s mouth.
- This past March, a two-person exhibition held at Out of Africa Gallery in Barcelona featured works by Omofemi and fellow Nigerian artist REWA. The gallery sold a total of nine works from the show, for undisclosed prices, to collectors in the U.S., U.K., Canada, Germany, China, and Senegal. Two months later, the gallery sold 16 works by Omofemi from its presentation at the virtual edition of the 1-54 New York fair.
- Interest in Omofemi’s portraits, domestic scenes, and allegorical images has grown rapidly amid these recent solo, two-person, and group exhibitions, with the momentum reaching a fever pitch last month. At an Artcurial sale in Paris on June 15th, the artist’s secondary-market record soared into the five-digit range. The arresting portrait Face to Face sold for €18,293 ($22,173), blowing past its high estimate of €4,500 ($5,451). Last week’s sale of Soul Meditation II represented a 71 percent increase over this previous record.
With this recent string of record-breaking auction results and his second solo show at Signature African Art slated to open in London on September 1st, it’s likely that Omofemi’s market will continue to surge as he gains more international recognition. Primary-market data for Omofemi’s work suggests demand is beginning to creep up to the accelerating prices seen on the auction circuit. As of this writing, the painting Sunday Evening (2020) is on offer on Artsy and priced at £18,000 ($24,984)—below, but not significantly so, his high-water mark at auction. Rising demand for the artist’s paintings is reflected on the platform, where his work first appeared in 2020. Just past the halfway point of 2021, the number of inquiries on Omofemi’s work on Artsy has already more than quadrupled last year’s total.