A Painting by Yusuf Grillo Sets a New World Record Price at Auction


Detail of The Seventh Knot, a painting by Yusuf Grillo sets a new world record price at auction. Image: Bonhams

The Seventh Knot, a painting by Yusuf Grillo sets a new world record price at auction, selling for £403,500.

BY ARTCENTRON

LONDON-The Seventh Knot (1969), an oil on board painting by Yusuf Adebayo Cameron Grillo (Nigerian, 1934–2021), was sold for £403,500 at Bonhams’ Modern & Contemporary African Art sale in London. The painting exceeded its pre-sale estimate of £150,00–200,000 and set a new world record price for a work by the famous Nigerian artist, who was a teacher to many top Nigerian artists today.

Grillo was one of the key members of the Zaria Art Society, which advocated for the incorporation of pre-colonial and Western art motifs in modern West African art. They called the concept ‘natural synthesis,’ and it directed the trajectory of what post-colonial African art looks like today.

The Seventh Knot is an important example of Grillo’s oeuvre. It displays geometrical forms and shapes that were major features of Grillo’s stained-glass art. But more importantly, it shows Grillo’s mastery of composition and color. The painting features a Yoruba woman raising both arms behind her head in what appears to be an effort to fix her gele. Using the color scheme of blue, purple, and green, the artist captures the woman’s effort to compose herself as she prepares for an outing. The delicate folds of the woman’s buba and her raised arms form double triangles that frame her face, revealing a meditative expression. The Seventh Knot also showcases Grillo’s loyalty to his Yoruba culture and heritage which was a major source of influence for many of his paintings.

Young Pondo Man by Irma Stern (South African, 1894–1966)

Young Pondo Man by Irma Stern was one of the top sellers at the Bonhams’ Modern & Contemporary African Art sale in London
Young Pondo Man by Irma Stern sold for £327,900. Image: Bonhams

Young Pondo Man by Irma Stern (South African, 1894–1966) also made an impressive outing at the auction. It sold for £327,900. Her Girl With Jug achieved £176,700 against a pre-sale estimate of £30,000–50,000. The demand for Irma Stern’s paintings has been on the rise for more than a decade and Bonhams has been satisfying that need. In the last decade, the auction house has sold some important paintings by the artist. In 2011, for instance, it sold Arab Priest (1945), by the artist, for £3 million, making this the world auction record for a painting by her and the most valuable South African painting ever sold at auction.

The Seventh Knot, a painting by Yusuf Grillo sets a new world record price at auction
Yusuf-Adebayo-Cameron Grillo, The-Seventh Knot 1969. Oil on board 121 x 75cm (47 5/8 x 29 1/2in). Image: Bonhams

Other highlights of the sale included:

  • Irma Stern (South African, 1894-1966), ‘Palm Trees’, Zanzibar within artist’s original Zanzibar frame. Sold for £290,100.
  • Gerard Sekoto (South African, 1913-1993), Donkeys. Sold for £277,500.
  • Benedict Chukwukadibia Enwonwu M.B.E (Nigerian, 1917-1994), Olokun Dancers. Sold for £239,700.
  • Yusuf Adebayo Cameron Grillo, (Nigerian, 1934-2021), Blind Minstrel. Sold for £189,300.
  • Prof. Uche Okeke (Nigerian, 1933-2016), Madonna & Child, the Manger. Sold for £151,500. A new world record for the artist.
  • Maggie (Maria Magdalena) Laubser (South African, 1886-1973), Indian Girl. Sold for £151,500.
  • El Anatsui (Ghanaian, born 1944), ‘Talakawa’, 120 x 50 x 40cm (47 1/4 x 19 11/16 x 15 3/4in). Sold for £75,900.