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Julie Mehretu Breaks Her Own World Record For Highest Sale of an African Artwork
A 2008 painting by the Addis Ababa-born, U.S.-based artist has fetched $10.7 million at a Sotheby’s auction in New York.
Julie Mehretu has done it again. The Ethiopian artist has broken the record for an African artwork at auction. On Wednesday, at Sotheby's Now Evening Auction in New York, her “Walkers With the Dawn and Morning” (2008) sold for $10.7 million — surpassing the previous record she set last month.
The painting went for $9.5 million, and with fees added, the final cost took it to its record-breaking amount. This follows Mehretu's recent success at Sotheby's Hong Kong contemporary evening sale on October 5th, where her untitled 2001 diptych fetched $9.32 million (with fees), surpassing the previous record, held by South African artist Marlene Dumas in 2008.
Mehretu painted “Walkers With the Dawn and Morning” as part of an exhibition created in response to the impact of Hurricane Katrina on the city of New Orleans. The painting, combining various elements of Mehretu's distinctive mark-making style, including architectural drawing, vibrant vectors, and calligraphic sweeps, was part of the 2008 New Orleans Museum of Art exhibition.
Mehretu, born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in 1970, moved to the U.S. with her family in 1977 and has emerged as a prominent figure in the rapidly growing contemporary African art scene. Her record-setting sale underscores the increasing interest in abstract works within this genre.
Mehretu's artistic journey from the Ethiopian capital to becoming a leading figure in contemporary African art is marked by her unique approach. She employs heavy layering to create abstract imagery, drawing inspiration from graffiti, city maps, and comic book graphics. Her work, linked to movements from futurism to constructivism, often features explosions and distinctive line work. Her ability to blend these elements results in explosive and intricate pieces that have earned her acclaim and recognition in the art world.
One of her most notable works, the 80-foot-wide mural titled "Mural," commissioned by Goldman Sachs in 2010, showcases Mehretu's talent and is visible from the street. Additionally, her painting "Untitled 1" achieved significant success, selling for over $1 million at a Sotheby's auction house in 2010.
As Mehretu continues to make waves in the art scene, her innovative and layered approach to abstraction positions her as a key figure in the evolution of contemporary African art.
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