‘The Art of the African’ has been sold for $20 million
A $20m sculpture of a giant chimpanzee made by a sculptor in Africa will be sold to the American public for the first time at auction.
The auction, held at the Sotheby’s auction house in New York, will open on Saturday in New Jersey.
The piece was originally commissioned by a group of African art collectors who donated the proceeds to the African Museums and Art Collections Foundation.
It was designed by Kenyan sculptor Shigeharim Akinnuoye and features the image of a woman on a tripod with a chimp standing over her.
It is currently on display at the African Art Museum in Nairobi.
The museum said the sculpture, which measures 11 metres tall, was bought by the foundation after Akinnooye was commissioned to create a sculpture for a $20-million (£13.8m) gift.
“We wanted to do something that had a little bit of African spirit and a little something for the African people,” said Akinnioye, whose work includes the works of John Singer Sargent, David Bowie and George Bernard Shaw.
The statue will be on display for the next two years at the museum and will also be on view at the Smithsonian Institution.
Akinnioys work was not always popular among African art experts.
Akinniyo, a Kenyan-born, Ghanaian-American, was criticised by many African art critics and collectors for his artworks.
“I’ve been in this business for 40 years and I’ve seen more bad art than good art,” said one critic.
“It’s not that I’m against art, it’s that art has to be given a chance.”
Akinnooya was born in the United States to a Nigerian mother and Kenyan father.
He spent much of his childhood in Kenya, Ghana and Nigeria before moving to New York in 1984.
He was awarded the National Medal of Arts in 1988 and the Prix Goncourt in 1993.
The auction, which is not being held in America, will feature works from Akinnoye’s gallery and his studio.
He has also sold sculptures by renowned American artist John Cage, a piece of sculpture by the American artist Frank Lloyd Wright, and works by the Brazilian artist Paulo Freire.