Why did Skepta acquire Sotheby’s

On a sticky London afternoon, a moss green Rolls-Royce was parked outside Sotheby’s. This probably happens a lot at the auction house’s New Bond Street HQ where wealthy potential buyers stop, but these Rolls belong to one of their curators – one of their artists, in fact. Inside, leader Joseph Olitan Adenuga Jr., better known as rapper Skepta, explains he doesn’t mind paying a £80 parking fine. What does Rolls’ driving look like anyway? It gives an imaginary smile. “Like a cat in a fish tank.”

We’re here to discuss the latest step in Adenuga’s irresistible rise: from being the founding father of dirt, one of the most influential pop movements of the century, to winner of the Mercury Award for his 2016 album Kunichiwa, passing through a friend and collaborator of Drake and Kanye West, founder of the clothing line, Maine, and also former rumors of Naomi Campbell. Born in Tottenham to Nigerian parents 40 years ago this month, he was appointed president in Ogun, their home country, in 2018. Now he’s selling a painting, along with other artists, at a curated contemporary auction at Sotheby’s, Auguste Auction House which, he tells us One of the galleries’ plaid napkins, it was founded about 280 years ago.

Mama Goes to the Market, 2021, by Skepta
Mama Goes to the Market, 2021, by Skepta

“1744!” Adenuga says softly, looking at a napkin among a selection of sushi, strawberries, and Ferrero Rocher; He was wearing a slouchy baseball cap, a multicolored baggy shirt, and a slouchy blue tracksuit. Is it extreme for a rapper from North London council areas to take over an art market stronghold? (And he’ll really take on the job, because he’s also planning to turn the showrooms into a marketplace for sale.) “I’d say it’s great, still.”

If you had no idea Skepta was a painter, don’t worry – nor is he. He has produced only one painting in his adult life, propped up on a wall not far from us, among a selection of works to be sold, by Chito, Slawn, Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, Ouattara Watts and Frank Bowling. Mama goes to the market Imagine a market scene in Nigeria, where one of the women in the picture is holding a baby wrapped around her, just as Adenuga’s mother used to carry him and his siblings whenever she went grocery shopping. Skipta explains that the Adenogas family will try to return to their home country at least once a year. But he says, “I’m still in a daze, because I didn’t do it for all of this.” Refers to gallery walls. “I did it because I was so frustrated in my own home.” Back in the spring of 2020, all of his shows were canceled, “I think I used to express myself all the time, every two days, while doing a show in a new place.” He definitely wouldn’t “write a song about shutting down and staying in,” he frowned. “So I just ordered oil paints and canvas [on Amazon]. “

Skepta at Big Smoke Corporation

Skepta at Big Smoke Corporation © Dexter Navy

The resulting image took seven days to be created and six days to dry. Is this short time? Harnesses. When I made the song ‘Praise the Lord’ with A$AP Rocky, which was one of our biggest songs ever” — 840mn from Spotify Streams — “I produced that hook in his London hotel room in 10 minutes.” The photo lingered for a year, until he took it to Givenchy’s pop-up and tagged Chito, Slawn, and Goldie. The reception was very good, someone suggested he call Sotheby’s and sell it. The estimate is £40,000 – £60,000. Who is hoping to buy it? “Honestly? Jay-Z.” He is a serious killer. “Because he is very interested in his African art. He, or Dave Chappelle.”

Celebrities of all kinds have revealed that they can draw. In July, Johnny Depp sold some flashy photos of his fellow stars for over $3 million. Ronnie Wood has been whipping up his rock ‘n’ roll oils for years. Fans haven’t forgotten the rave, high-speed Instagram montage that Britney Spears produced as she painted some flowers at home (not in the market yet, unfortunately). But Adenuga isn’t about to announce a reversal. appreciate art But only as much as he studied compulsory classes at school. However: “I love Edvard Munch Scream,” he says. “I like very much. I wish I could have one.” He went to Munch’s summer exhibition at the Courtauld Gallery, which he enjoyed, “although there was no Scream – I was angry! “

Body Snatching Soul Seeker, 2000, by Lynette Yadom Bouake

Body Snatching Soul Seeker, 2000, by Lynette Yadom Bouake © Courtesy Sotheby’s

Untitled (blue), 1997, by Ouattara Watts

Untitled (blue), 1997, by Ouattara Watts © Courtesy Sotheby’s

The Curated Contemporary Sale, held in London twice a year, will present around 90-120 artworks; Adenuga curates a “pocket” of those, between eight and 12, with no strict theme except for invoking energy and color from Nigeria (the amber frieze painted by Bowling, born in Guyana, reminds him of the walls in Lagos). Lisa Stevenson, Head of Coordinating Sales, says: Sotheby’s. I was really impressed by the rapper’s own efforts, promising it’s “a very powerful palette… I was really touched by it, and I still am.”

Scrolling over this entire project is a question of whether this will open Sotheby’s to a new audience. Stevenson acknowledges, “One of the nice things about Curated Selling is that it’s an easily accessible sale, and we see the boundaries between different disciplines blurring; we see that a lot of younger audiences can enter. It’s culturally relevant.” However, for the rapper, it doesn’t seem like it was a trigger. In fact, “I was thinking about how fans would greet me with a painting, and it would appear at Sotheby’s, after 20 years of listening to rap music,” he admits. People are “afraid of what they don’t know”. When I point out that everyone nowadays seems to be polyhyphenated, so it would be fine, it kind of agrees – but on the condition that everything hangs together. Take, for example, the late Virgil Abloh, he says. “He was really good at making sense of the story… so we have to figure that out. But we don’t have much time!”

Untitled, 2022, by Sloan

Untitled, 2022, by Sloan

Untitled, 2022, by Chitto

Untitled, 2022, by Chito © Courtesy Sotheby’s

Ultimately, his paintings are part of an ongoing affirmation of his African heritage, and a nod to his daughter, born in 2018. “I want my children to feel like they were in an African family, whether it’s the music or the art, the clothes we wear and the food we eat.” “Lots of African artwork in my home when I was young really shaped me as a man…I thought I should try to make a conscious effort to put these in the house.” Since then, he has bought pieces from the influential Nike Art Gallery in Lagos.

When asked which artist influenced him the most, he said that in the early days it was rappers like Tupac Shakur and Sittorius Begg, but now it’s Villa Coty. “As an African boy at the time, it was difficult in school: your self-confidence was kind of stripped away.” Even when he won the Mercury race, he didn’t feel full. “I was that big Skepta, a ‘Mercury winner,’ all that stuff” – but he felt like he was trying to please the wrong people. Listening to Coty reminded him that his main goal is to make others from his background feel proud of him, too. “Show me what altitude is for an African man. It is not Mercury – it is other things.” He says they’re not even “physical things” like cars (he already owns two Rolls-Royce). “I need to get it out of my system because I’ve always wanted to. But deep down, I know my purpose.”

Does this purpose involve making another board? “When I make music, it’s somewhat energy,” he says. “I just go with the vibe. Drawing – I don’t go with the vibe. I’m thinking: “What does the bottom of someone’s nose look like?” This obviously has limited appeal. Gives a nice laugh. “I don’t have the patience to draw!”

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