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Never mind NFTs, Black figurative painting is the style du jour of the early 2020s

June 29, 2021 - Sean O'Toole |

Makamo shuns exclusive gallery representation, opting instead for hybrid modes of trade. He is not averse to collaborations with commercial galleries. In March this year, he held a solo exhibition with Everard Read in Cape Town. The show featured examples of Makamo’s pop portraiture depicting young black subjects in the style of his celebrated 2019 Time magazine cover featuring his cousin, Mapule Maoto. The works offered at Everard Read were priced between R78,000 and R1.4 million. The exhibition drew “a broad and enthusiastic audience,” says Charles Shields, a co-owner and director of Everard Read. “Happily we pretty much sold out too.”

In distinction to Samson, the secondary market for works by Makamo in South Africa is robust. Aspire Art Auction has sold a dozen lots, while rival auction house Strauss & Co has shifted 99 lots. In July 2020, Makamo’s oil on canvas Portrait of a Girl Wearing Earrings sold at Strauss & Co for R455 200, a secondary-market record for the artist. The price is still a long way off the six figure sums commanded by Beauford Delaney, Ben Enwonwu and Gerard Sekoto, post-war painters whose practice links the current riotous innovation fuelling the art market to a long and venerable tradition of figurative description of Black lives by Black artists.

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SA's newest art superstar Nelson Makamo is an optimist

February 10, 2019 - Charl Blignaut | City Press

It shouldn’t come as a huge surprise that South African art’s newest superstar, the 36-year-old Limpopo-born Nelson Makamo, made it to the cover of Time magazine this week. That’s because one of Makamo’s biggest fans is Ava DuVernay, the acclaimed US film director, producer and distributor. And DuVernay was the guest editor of the latest edition of the mag, called “the optimism edition”. She’s posted on her Instagram before about buying paintings from Makamo.

Auction houses show his larger work climbing rapidly above the R250 000 mark but the verdict is out on the value of the gorgeous work featuring a child in red spectacles now that it’s been on the cover of Time. And she’s not the only celeb in love with his bright paintings and famous charcoal portraits, which exude the love and beauty of the innocent African child, marking an upbeat and positive trend in the often dark and conceptual world of contemporary art.


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