ART TALK: Rare Works by Modernist Skunder Boghossian Go on Sale in New York

“Boghossian is one of Ethiopia’s most highly regarded Modernist artists, and we are delighted to offer the collection from the artist’s family for the first time at auction,” Giles Peppiatt, Bonhams director of modern and contemporary African Art, says. “The dynamic works illustrate the diversity of multiple influences throughout his prolific career.” (Images: Skunder Boghossian, Union, 1966; The Big Orange, 1971/Bonhams)

Penta Magazine

Twenty works by Ethiopian modernist master Alexander “Skunder” Boghossian will be offered at Bonhams modern and contemporary African art sale in New York on May 4.

The paintings and works on paper, executed from the 1960s through the 1990s by Boghossian (1937-2003), have all been kept in his family until this auction. Estimates of the works range from US$2,000 to US$150,000.

Boghossian was born in 1937 during Benito Mussolini’s occupation of Ethiopia. He left the country to study art in London and then in Paris. In 1970, he emigrated to the U.S. and taught painting at Atlanta University and Howard University.

Boghossian was known to use bright colors to create superimposed dimensions of form and shape, inspired by Ethiopia’s long tradition of wall painting in churches and of illustrated manuscripts. He became the first contemporary Ethiopian artist to have works purchased by the Musée d’ Art Moderne in Paris (1963) and the Museum of Modern Art in New York (1965).

“Boghossian is one of Ethiopia’s most highly regarded Modernist artists, and we are delighted to offer the collection from the artist’s family for the first time at auction,” Giles Peppiatt, Bonhams director of modern and contemporary African Art, says. “The dynamic works illustrate the diversity of multiple influences throughout his prolific career.”


Skunder Boghossian, The Jugglers (Bonhams)

Highlights from the collection include Union, a 1966 blue-color painting composed of forms of African symbolism and iconography, and The Big Orange, a 1971 canvas featuring various African animals and symbols. The two paintings are expected to sell for between US$150,000 and US$250,000 each.

Additionally, The Jugglers, a 1962 painting partially inspired by Cuban painter Wilfredo Lam (1902-82) is offered with an estimate of between US$70,000 and US$100,000. The two met in 1959 in Rome. In this painting, Boghossian took inspiration from Lam’s use of mysterious and primordial totemic images.

The collection is on view, by appointments only, at Bonhams New York galleries, from now until the auction on the afternoon of May 4.

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