Njideka Akunyili Crosby has sold one of her numerous artworks for a staggering $3.4 million. The botanical painting “Bush Babies” (2017) exceeded expectations estimated to be sold for $800,000 by Sotheby’s, a leading broker of fine and decorative art, during an auction at the Christie’s in London, United Kingdom.
Njideka, daughter of late Nigerian Minister Dora Akunyili, is known for creating art that draws on her ethnic heritage and African experience. Her work has been described by the Victoria Miro Gallery in London as “densely layered figurative compositions that, precise in style, nonetheless conjure the complexity of contemporary experience. Born in Enugu, Nigeria, the artist moved to the United states at the age of 16, studied art and biology at Swarthmore College, as a Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellow. She then went on to earn a post-baccalaureate certificate at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts before attaining a Masters of Fine Arts degree from the Yale University School of Art.
She was the recipient of the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s James Dicke Contemporary Art Prize in 2014, also landing a solo exhibition at the Hammer Museum in 2015. She was named 2016’s Financial Times Woman of the Year, proceeding to win the McArthur Genius grant in 2017 from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.
Using her signature collage technique, Njideka referenced her bi-furcated cultural experience in Bush Babies. Although the figures that ordinarily dominate her work as subjects are absent, multiple figurative images, including the face of her late mother and former Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan are embedded throughout the painting, hidden in the “bush.”
Her artwork has consistently been selling for grossly inflated prices. This, according to the artist, does not bode well for longevity and leaves artists vulnerable to manufactured trends. According to the Wall Street Journal (paywall), the artist is seeking to reclaim control over her sale prices to avoid an imminent crash, such as the likes of Sterling Ruby, whose spray-painted abstracts sold for as much as $1.7 million four years ago but now fetch about a third of the price.
To this end, Akunyili is funneling her new work to museums for prices in the low six-figure range and is creating murals like those in Los Angeles and in Brixton, England, that cannot be auctioned because they are in situ pieces.
It was reported that at least 20 public museums are on a waiting list for works which Njideka hasn’t even painted yet.