Five artists to have on your radar this month

Post-War and Contemporary art specialist Victoria Gramm selects five rising stars with works offered in upcoming Christie’s auctions

Robert Nava

Robert Nava (b. 1985), Maybe Metatron, 2017. Acrylic, coloured pencil and grease pencil on canvas, 79⅞ x 71¼ in (203 x 181 cm). Estimate: £30,000-50,000. Offered in the Post-War and Contemporary Art Day Sale on 23 October 2020 at Christie’s in London

Who? Originally from Indiana, the American artist Robert Nava (b. 1985) has caused a stir with his bright, bold and unruly paintings of mythical monsters. Dubbed ‘the new bad boy of Bad Painting’, the Yale School of Art graduate now lives and works in Brooklyn, where he shares a studio with cans of spray paint, booming techno and his cat.

He describes his pictures as ‘carefully done wrong’ and claims his record time for completing a canvas — after hours of rigorous sketchbook planning — was just 27 seconds.

In 2019, Nava had two sell-out solo shows in Los Angeles and Copenhagen. In March 2020, the Brussels-based gallery Sorry We’re Closed presented a solo booth of his work at The Armory Show  in New York. By the end of the fair, aspiring purchasers were directed to join a long waiting list.

The buzz around the artist continued when Nava made a sensational auction debut in June. His year-old diptych of a wide grimacing mouth, The Tunnel, fetched $162,500 — more than quadruple its low estimate.

Recent exhibitions: Robert Nava Vs, Night Gallery, Los Angeles, 2019; Mythologies, V1 Gallery, Copenhagen, Denmark, 2019; Robert Nava, Sorry We’re Closed, Brussels, Belgium, 2018.

You might also like: Joe Bradley, Eddie Martinez, Tracey Emin

Eddy Kamuanga Ilunga

Who? Eddy Kamuanga Ilunga (b. 1991) studied at the Académie des Beaux-Arts in his hometown of Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where he developed a sophisticated, painterly technique. He quit the academy in 2011 to form M’Pongo, a local artists’ collective.

Since then, his rich portraits exploring a modern Congolese identity have been exhibited at the Royal Academy of Arts in London and purchased by high-profile collectors including Laurence Graff.

In 2016, he was one of 10 artists nominated for the Financial Times/OppenheimerFunds Emerging Voices Awards and, in 2019, the South African Norval Foundation reportedly paid $65,000 for his work Conscience Fragile  at the contemporary African art fair 1:54 in London.

In 2018, Ilunga’s portrait Mangbetu set an auction record for the artist at £65,000, against a low estimate of just £8,000. Twelve months later, his double-portrait Palm, which features humans with skin made of circuit boards, achieved an impressive £81,250.

Recent exhibitions: Congo Stars, Kunsthaus Graz, Graz, Austria, 2018-19; Fragile Responsibility, October Gallery, London, 2018; Pangaea II: New Art from Africa and Latin America, Saatchi Gallery, London, 2015.

You might also like: Yinka Shonibare, Toyin Ojih Odutola, Chéri Cherin

Ryan Mosley

Who? Like a modern-day Toulouse-Lautrec, the British artist Ryan Mosley (b. 1980) paints life as a carnival. Unlike the Frenchman, however, he uses smatterings of abstraction and Cubism to distort his top-hatted characters.

In 2017, Mosley told Christie’s that he works on up to 20 pictures at a time. ‘Something might happen in one painting that will generate the next layer of paint that goes onto another,’ he explained. ‘There’s an embryonic phase that allows for cross-fertilisation.’

While smaller Mosley paintings can still be acquired for a few thousand pounds, the auction record for a work by the artist stands at £17,500. It was set in 2017, when Emperor Butterfly  sold at Christie’s in London for more than triple its low estimate.

Since then, Mosley’s work has been included in the critically acclaimed 2020 show Radical Figures: Painting in the New Millennium at London’s Whitechapel Gallery. 

Recent exhibitions: A New Kitchen Sink, Josh Lilley Gallery, London, 2017; From the Verges, Galerie Eigen, Leipzig, 2017; Band of None, Vielmetter gallery, Los Angeles, 2014.

You might also like: Sanya Kantarovsky, Christina Quarles, Matthew Wong


Aboudia (b. 1983), Untitled, 2013. Acrylic and oil stick on printed paper collage on canvas. 49¼ x 78¾ in (125 x 200 cm). Estimate: £15,000-20,000. Offered in the Post-War and Contemporary Art Day Sale on 23 October 2020 at Christie’s in London

Who? The totemic paintings of the Ivorian artist Aboudia (aka Abdoulaye Diarrassouba, b. 1983) first caught the attention of the global media after the artist refused to leave his studio in Abidjan during the political riots of 2010. Hiding from gunfire, he used his acrylics and oil sticks to depict the clashes outside.

The artist now divides his time between Abidjan and Brooklyn, where he has been labelled a successor to Jean-Michel Basquiat.

Aboudia’s works have already been snapped up by two titans of contemporary African art collecting, Jean Pigozzi and Charles Saatchi, and, in February 2020, Christie’s set an auction record for a work on canvas by the artist. Executed in 2018, Famille Seule (Family Only)  sold for £43,750 — more than six times the low estimate. 

This came five days after Untitled, a series of 18 portraits on paper, sold for £50,000 at Christie’s in London — just short of the record €70,200 paid for the artist’s Carnet de Voyage in 2019.

Recent exhibitions: Anges Déchus, Jack Bell Gallery, London, 2019; Summer Exhibition, Royal Academy of Arts, London, 2017; Diana Fardon, Where Are You?, Ethan Cohen Gallery, New York, 2017.

You might also like: Jean-Michel Basquiat, Boris Nzebo, Amoako Boafo

Caroline Walker

Who? In February 2020, Christie’s in London set a new auction record for the Scottish artist Caroline Walker (b. 1982), when her painting Desayuno  sold for £77,500 against a low estimate of just £18,000. The work’s striking composition and warm palette draw comparisons with the early paintings of David Hockney

The strong result is evidence of a continued uptick in market interest. In March 2019 Conservation  sold at Christie’s for £31,250 against a low estimate of £6,000, while Upstairs Downstairs  achieved £32,500 against the same low estimate just four months later.

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The boost in Walker’s popularity can be partly attributed to a recent institutional commission. In 2018, Andrew Nairne, director of Kettle’s Yard in Cambridge, asked Walker to create a new work for the inaugural exhibition of the recently renovated gallery. She duly painted a series of portraits depicting asylum seekers whom she had met through the charity Refugee Women. The work received rave reviews. 

Walker’s paintings can also be found in public collections including the Kunstmuseum Den Haag in the Netherlands, the National Museum Wales, the Shetland Contemporary Art Collection and the British Government Art Collection.  

Recent exhibitions: Janet, Ingleby Gallery, Edinburgh, 2020; A Woman Sewing, GRIMM Gallery, Amsterdam, 2019; Sunset, Anat Ebgi, Los Angeles, 2018.

You might also like: Hurvin Anderson, Jonas Wood, Nicolas Party

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