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British rapper Skepta to guest curate Sotheby’s auction and debut his first painting

September 7, 2022

Written by Shama Nasinde, CNN

Skepta, one of the UK’s most prominent grime musicians and producers, can add a new title to his resume: artist and curator.

The award-winning performer has guest curated a section of the upcoming “Contemporary Curated,” sale, a Sotheby’s initiative which sees famous figures — from Oprah to the late Virgil Abloh — step in to play the role of co-curator.

The curated auction features works from both emerging and established artists including a painting made by Skepta’s himself.

The British-Nigerian describes the work, called “Mama Goes to Market,” as a “brought-together memory of Nigeria,” in a press release. It is his first painting of him and was created during a Covid-19 lockdown in 2020.

“My mum used to carry me just as the woman in my painting carries her child,” he is quoted as saying in the press statement. “I always planned to include these four figures: a young boy, two women enlarged in conversation, and another lady rationing rice into a bowl besides baskets brimming with fruit and veg. I designed their clothes too — ‘Nigerian Couture’,” he added.

Although art is a new venture for the musician, he said that it was a natural transition. “When you make music — because it comes with music videos, styling, set design and everything else — you naturally get subsumed into the world of art as well, getting your teeth stuck into different movements (and) styles as a way to inspire your own creativity,” Skepta told CNN over email.

Skepta describes the work as a

Skepta describes the work as a “brought-together memory of Nigeria.” Credit: Dexter Navy

The show is the second London edition of Sotheby’s Contemporary Curated series.

“(The sales have) always been tied to our desire to collaborate with exciting and culturally relevant tastemakers across all disciplines — be it fashion, food, business, culture, art or music — and, in turn, open our doors even wider to audiences,” said Lisa Stevenson, Sotheby’s Head of Curated Sales in an e-mail statement to CNN.

She added that the collaboration with Skepta was “the perfect fit.”

“It has been incredible collaborating with him, whose music, lyrics and creativity continue to inspire many of this generation.”

The graffiti etched onto the walls of Skepta’s painting were additions made by artist Slawn, music producer and graffiti artist Goldie and graphic designer Chito. Pieces by each artist will feature in Skepta’s guest edit which makes up 10 of the total 88 pieces up for auction.

“Slawn, Untitled,” (2022) is estimated to reach between £15,000-20,000 ($17,000-$23,000). Credit: Sotheby’s

Other artworks included in the rapper’s selection include a shadowed surrealist portrait by British Ghanaian artist Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, a warm and textured play on color titled “Simon Helps” by Guyanese artist Frank Bowling, Ghanaian artist Aplerh-Doku Borlabi’s bright and pensive portrait of a woman made from coconut sheaths and acrylic, and a piece by Theaster Gates.

“I chose these pieces because, to me, they all had an African feeling about them. Whether they were created by African artists or not, they all share in this essence. In one way or another, they triggered powerful dialogues with my painting too ,” Skepta said in the press release.

His painting is estimated to sell for £40,000-£60,000 ($46,000-$69,000). The rapper said he hopes “whoever buys my painting to love it as much as me.

“I want it to serve its purpose: for someone to enjoy it.”

The Contemporary Curated exhibition with guest curator Skepta is on display at the Sotheby’s New Bond Street gallery in London September 8-13. The auction opens for bidding on September 7.


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