With Frieze London just a little over a month away, Christie’s has unveiled a new charitable initiative in collaboration with the Museum of West African Art (MOWAA) in Nigeria. The auction house will sell works donated by top contemporary artists at its evening and day sales to benefit the museum.
The agreement came about so quickly that only a partial list of contributing artists is available as of yet, and works are still being created. But it’s already an impressive checklist: Tunji Adeniyi-Jones, Victor Ehikhamenor, Lakwena Maciver, Yinka Shonibare, and Kehinde Wiley are among the artists who have already committed work.
Proceeds from the sale of the works will go toward MOWAA initiatives, including the presentation of the Nigerian Pavilion at the 2024 Venice Biennale, and the museum’s 20-acre creative district, which includes the Rainforest Gallery to showcase art spanning all times. It was designed by the Dakar-based architecture firm Worofila.
“We’re so honored that leading artists understand the importance of MOWAA,” Aindrea Emelife, the museum’s curator of modern and contemporary art, told Artnet News.
“This will directly benefit core parts of our mission and creative initiatives from providing critical infrastructure and programming to support contemporary creatives and cultural heritage specialists in West Africa,” she added. “This is not just an opportunity for Africa, but for the world.”
Emelife is also curating the Nigerian pavilion for next year’s biennial, which will ultimately travel back to MOWAA. She noted that while there is overlap, with two biennial artists contributing work to the charitable auction initiative, the list of artists donating to the auction is not limited to Black or African artists.
This is not Emelife’s first time teaming up with Christie’s. Several years ago she helped organize a highly successful private selling exhibition during Frieze London, titled “Bold Black British,” which brought together work by Black British artists from the 1980s through the present day.
Isabel Bardawil, Christie’s specialist in postwar and contemporary art in London, told Artnet News that the conversation came about shortly after Emelife was appointed to MOWAA as a curator. “We also knew that she would be involved in the Venice pavilion so we had a chat about how Christie’s could support and be involved,” Bardawil said. “The conversation moved toward a fundraising auction and happened quickly.”
“Contemporary art from Africa and the diaspora has been a seminal element of our Frieze week programming since 2020,” Bardawil said. That includes the auction house’s ongoing relationship with 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair, now in its fourth year, and the 2022 presentation of the Sina Jina Collection, the largest collection of contemporary art from Africa and the diaspora ever to be sold at auction.
As works are still being finalized for inclusion in the sales, there is not yet an overall presale estimate for the MOWAA initiative. Minimum bids for each work are expected to be at or near the reserves.