By Adeyemi Ayeku
Toyin Ojih Odutola, a female artist based in America, has become the third highest paid Nigerian artist of all time after her drawing of ‘Compoud Leaf’ sold at the Sotheby’s for £471,000 (approximately ₦215million).
In a report by the News Agency of Nigeria, it was stated that this record breaking sale puts Odutola behind a female artist, Njideka Akunyili-Crosby, daughter of the late Professor Dora Nkem Akunyili, whose artwork, “Bush Babies”, sold at Sotheby’s art house in New York for $3.4million (approximately ₦1.2billion) and the legendary Ben Enwonwu, whose painting of the Ife Princess, Adetutu Ademiluyi (abbreviated as ‘Tutu’), which went missing for about two decades before turning up in a London apartment, sold for $1.6million (₦508million).
Odutola who moved from Nigeria to America at the age of five became aware of her blackness and questioned her identity.
Due to the transformation shock occasioned by the transition, she has used art as a coping mechanism and over time, it transformed into an “investigative, learning activity for her”.
Speaking with Vogue — a fashion and lifestyle magazine founded about a century ago, about how art helped her escape, Odutola said “I was obsessed. Capturing everything I saw and being fascinated with the incredible simple task of looking at something and transmitting it onto paper. It’s immediate magic.”
She has participated in copious exhibitions at various world class institutions and art exhibition centres including The Drawing Centre, New York (2018-2019); Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (2017-2018); Brooklyn Museum, New York (2016).
She has also exhibited at the contemporary Art Museum St. Louis (2015); Studio Museum Harlem, New York (2015, 2012); Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, Ridgedield (2013); and Menil Collection, Houston, (2012).
Her permanent collections, which are numerous, include Museum of Modern Art, Whitney Museum of American Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art; Birmingham Museum of Art; Baltimore Museum of Art; and New Orleans Museum Art.
Her collections have also been displayed at the Philadelphia Museum of Art; Princeton University Art Museum; Spencer Museum of Art; Honolulu Museum of Art; and the National Museum of African Art (Smithsonian).
Born in 1985 in Ile-Ife, Nigeria, she was raised in Huntsville, Alabama, United States, where her passion for art was nurtured by the experiences she had of the segregation which was prevalent at that time.
She creates multimedia drawings on various surfaces investigating formulaic representations and how such images can be unreliable, systemic, and socially-coded.