US-based Ethiopian artist Julie Mehretu has once again made history by breaking the record for the highest sale price of any work by an African-born artist at auction.
Her abstract masterpiece, “Walkers With the Dawn and Morning,” recently sold for an astounding $10.7 million (6.4 Billion FCFA) at Sotheby’s in New York this Wednesday.
The artwork, featuring ink and acrylic on canvas, draws inspiration from a 1920s Langston Hughes poem. Mehretu, 52, was born in Ethiopia and relocated with her family to the US in 1977 amidst political turmoil, eventually becoming a prominent figure in the rapidly growing world of contemporary African art.
Created as part of an exhibition responding to the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and its impact on New Orleans, Mehretu’s painting captivated two bidders during the auction. The bidding war concluded with a final price of $9.5 million, which, after factoring in fees, reached the record-breaking sum of $10.7 million.
This sale marks Mehretu’s second consecutive record-setting auction, following her previous achievement of $9.3 million just last month.
“Walkers With the Dawn and Morning” encompasses all aspects of Mehretu’s distinctive mark-making style, incorporating architectural drawing, vibrant vectors, and calligraphic sweeps, according to Sotheby’s.
The successful sale of Mehretu’s work underscores the increasing interest in contemporary African art, particularly in the realm of abstract creations. Hannah O’Leary, head of Sotheby’s modern and contemporary African art department, commented to the Art Newspaper last month, stating, “We are moving beyond that initial phase to something more discerning.”
In addition to her auction triumphs, Mehretu has been chosen to create BMW’s next Art Car. Her artwork will adorn a BMW car set to participate in the 24 Hours of Le Mans race next year, further solidifying her influence in both the art world and automotive design.