Aboudia blindsides market experts as best-selling artists of 2022

Not everyone will know his name, let alone his paintings, yet Aboudia has emerged as the bestselling artist of 2022, based on the number of artworks sold at auction, to the surprise of market experts.

Aboudia, aka Abdoulaye Diarrassouba, 40, whose art is inspired by street culture in his home town of Abidjan in Ivory Coast, heads the Hiscox Artist Top 100, a new survey analysing key trends in contemporary art that will be published on Monday.

Aboudia’s work is influenced by the graffiti of Abidjan and the traditional wood carvings of West Africa, and has been compared to the work of Jean-Michel Basquiat, who made his name with graffiti-like images.

Since the Ivorian civil war in 2011, Aboudia’s pictures have reflected the trauma of man’s inhumanity to man with images of skulls and soldiers.

The Hiscox survey found that a total of 75 artworks by Aboudia were auctioned, followed by Damien Hirst with 73 works.

His prices have soared from a few thousand pounds about a decade ago to six figures today. Christie’s in London sold one of his untitled paintings for £504,000 last year.

Robert Read, head of art and private clients at Hiscox, said he had not previously heard of Aboudia and was taken aback by his auction success.

“But then I’m constantly surprised by things that happen, especially in the contemporary art market … That’s what makes it so exciting … Aboudia seems to be an artist that people want to speculate in,” he said.

The Jack Bell gallery in London gave Aboudia his first UK show in 2011, and the artist counts Charles Saatchi among his collectors.

Oliver Durey, Jack Bell’s director, said: “It has been great to see the level of international engagement in Aboudia’s practice increase over the years.”

The market success may reflect a rising interest in modern art from Africa, with leading western museums and galleries building up collections.

Among the survey’s other findings, David Hockney was the bestselling artist in global auction value in 2022. His sales generated $75m (£61m). His most valuable painting was Winter Timber of 2009, which fetched $23m (£19.3m) at Christie’s in New York in November.

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The research was carried out for Hiscox, an international specialist insurer, by ArtTactic, a research and analysis firm.

Its findings are based on unique artworks – editions were not included – made after 2000, which have been auctioned at Christie’s, Sotheby’s and Phillips between 2018 and 2022. The research includes more than 23,000 lots from more than 3,800 artists.

The data reveals that the past two years saw a significant increase in the value of contemporary work sold, peaking in 2021 at almost $1.2bn.

It also reflected a market that has become increasingly speculative with, for example, “a dramatic increase in art being flipped as ‘wet paint’ sales”, those re-sold at auction within two years of being made, which more than doubled last year.

Read said: “We suspected that over time, the contemporary market had become more speculative, but last year wet paint sales sky-rocketed. Art is an attractive asset class for investors in the long run, but reselling within such short periods can have a destabilising effect on the market as it creates a speculative bubble.”

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