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Bonhams to sell works by eight leading Kenyan artists to raise money for visual arts education in Kenya
Joseph Bertiers, Yesterday Afternoon. Photo: Bonhams.

LONDON.- Bonhams, the international fine art auction house in London, will sell the work of eight leading Kenyan artists on the evening of May 20th in London to raise funds for visual arts education in Kenya. The Bonhams ‘Africa Now’ sale of Contemporary African art takes place two days later on May 22.

The money raised from the charity auction is designated specifically for use in Kenya in the field of visual art education, of which there is a serious lack and a great need. The sale is in association with The African Arts Trust and Circle Art Agency, and with the generous sponsorship of Afren.

All the funds generated by the sale of the eight Kenyan paintings will go directly to projects in Kenya: neither the African Arts Trust nor the artists will keep any of the proceeds. The artists who have donated work to the auction will be involved in deciding exactly how and where it is spent.

The eight artists included in this auction represent all that is best from the current crop of Kenyan contemporary artists. They were selected by Danda Jaroljmek of Circle Art Agency and Robert Devereux of The African Arts Trust. Devereux comments: “I am delighted that Bonhams have joined with the African Arts Trust to host this auction. The artists featured in this sale are some of the finest in Kenya and they deserve the greater international recognition that the auction will bring. There is a pressing need for greater awareness and education relating to the visual arts and the proceeds of this sale will further this aim.”

The eight works to be offered at the evening sale on Monday 20th May reveal a wide range of stylistic and thematic concerns. Some of the works have a distinctly socio-political edge, from Joseph Bertier’s Yesterday Afternoon, which depicts panicked grocery-buying in a Kenyan market triggered by the failure of the biometric vote-tallying system in the March elections, to Michael Soi’s China loves Africa, which sardonically probes the relationship between the two countries. Meanwhile, Anthony Okello, James Muriuki and Peterson Kamwathi explore aspects of Kenyan city life: Okello navigates the personal resonances of urban anonymity and angst; Muriuki’s ongoing photographic project, Undefined Construction, captures the changing face of the built environment; and Kamwathi considers the social effects of queues. In an innovative refashioning of recycled and waste metal materials, Cyrus Kabiru presents a playful pair of bifocals that conjure up the energy and ingenuity of Nairobi’s youth. Finally, evocative paintings by Beatrice Wanjiku and Paul Onditi explore universal themes of human desire and dissatisfaction.

Circle Art Agency is East Africa's first independent arts agency, set up to support and promote the contemporary art market in Kenya and the region. They are passionate about contemporary African art. Through arts consultancy, exhibitions, a collectors' club and an annual art auction they aim to give talented artists greater visibility and opportunities. This allows collectors, both local and international, to benefit from and enjoy the region's vibrant art scene. The African Arts Trust acts as a catalyst for the emergence and growth of locally managed and sustainable contemporary art organisations in Africa. It supports a wide range of projects with an emphasis on grass roots organisations that support professional practising artists trying to make a livelihood in the visual arts.

As the only international auction house to offer dedicated sales for modern and contemporary African art, Bonhams is a key player in the development of this emerging market.

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