Focus on Kudzanai-Violet Hwami

[21/09/2021]

Her figurative works address themes of gender, sexuality, race and violence … exactly what museums, collectors and the market are looking for right now as they rewrite a more inclusive story. Through her portraits of black people as so many “celebrations of Afro-punk and the LGBTQ + community” (to quote the title of Hero-magazine, October 2017), Kudzanai-Violet Hwami is making a singular contribution to the “Black Renaissance” currently underway, now one of the deepest trends of our era. Among her sources of inspiration are of course the artists who allowed the emergence of this new figurative painting such as the Americans Henry Taylor and Kerry James Marshall, and, more recently, the British artist Kudzanai-Violet HWAMI. Hwami is not only clearly related to these now famous painters, she also now shares their immense commercial success.

We take a brief look back at the career of this young woman still in her twenties, whose work collectors are already willing to pay half a million dollars for.

Kudzanai-Violet was nine years old when she left Zimbabwe due to political unrest. After a few years in South Africa, she moved to London at the age of 17 and studied art at Wimbledon College of Arts from where she graduated in 2016. The same year, she won two prizes, the Clyde & Co Award and the Zimbabwean International Women’s Awards. Various exhibitions followed in London (Tyburn Gallery) and in France (among others at the Rennes Workshops and at the Triangle) and then in Venice where she was one of the artists representing Zimbabwe at the 2019 Biennale. However it wasn’t until some months later – when the powerful Victoria Miro gallery got involved – that the first real ‘turbulence’ began to appear on her market.

A hungry market…

Almost as soon as Kudzanai-Violet Hwami hit the secondary market in 2020 one of her works (a painting completed two years earlier) sold for $252,000 against a pre-sale estimated range of $30,000 to $40,000 (Eve on Psilocybin). This result (six times the high estimate) – hammered during a Phillips sale in New York – illustrates the incredible enthusiasm aroused by painting that explores black identity. More recently, on 19 April 2021, one of her paintings of a black odalisque, Skye waNehanda (180 x 230 cm), rocked a Sotheby’s auction sale in Hong Kong with an impressive new record of $487,000, more than 10 times its low estimate. Purchased four years ago from the Tyburn gallery, this painting has already change hands publicly four times… Behind the urgency to legitimize a work engaged in the deconstruction of stereotypes and relations of domination, these very rapid resales illustrate the market’s avidity for hot signatures with very substantial capital gains potential.

Kudzanai-Violet Hwami is now one of the Top 10 contemporary artists born in Africa according to his auction performances (2020/21). Find more information on this hot market on October 5 with the publication of Artprice’s Contemporary Art Market Report.

Artprice article published in Diptyk magazine