Meet Toyin Ojih Odutola, the third highest-paid Nigerian artist of all time

Toyin Odutola is now the third highest paid Nigerian artist (naijaloaded)
  • Toyin Ojih Odutola has joined the list of the highest-paid Nigerian artists of all time.
  • She joined the exclusive list after her drawing 'Compound Leaf' sold at the Sotheby's for £471,000 (roughly N215 million).
  • She joins fellow female artist, Njideka Akunyili-Crosby, and the legendary Ben Enwonwu.

Toyin Ojih Odutola is the third highest-paid Nigerian artist of all time.

She earned this prestigious title after selling one of her drawings, titled 'Compound Leaf', for £471,000 (roughly N215 million) at the Sotheby's.

This record-breaking sale puts on her on the list of the top three highest-paid Nigerian artists led by Njideka Akunyili Crosby, whose ‘Bush Babes’ sold for £3 million while Ben Enwonwu’s 'Tutu' made £1.2 million.

She was born in 1985 in Ife, an ancient Yoruba city in Nigeria. She moved with her family to Berkeley, California five years later.

There, she became aware of her 'blackness' and started to question her identity. During this time, art became her coping mechanism, her way of dealing with this new transition.

Telling Vogue how art helped her, Odutola said, "I was obsessed. Capturing everything I saw and being fascinated with the incredibly simple task of looking at something and transmitting it onto paper. It's immediate magic."

As a kid, I always felt that art was beyond me. Even though I loved to draw more than anything--to the point where it affected my breathing--it always felt like a dream that I could only entertain as a hobby. Who was I to aspire to anything more than what was expected of me? This included my deepest fears and doubts. But every once in awhile, when the check came in from my temp job, I'd rush to the bookstore to get the latest periodicals: @artforum, @artnewsmag and @juxtapozmag were the constant. I'd pour over those pages--eyes gobbling up everything--just to live vicariously through those stories, the artists, the art.... All the while, NEVER conceiving the possibility that I might be included in that world, to hold my own amongst so many I admired--to see my family's names on those pages one day. 2017 has been one hell of a year, and with all the insanity that is happening, I am so grateful to be doing what I do. This moment is for 14 year old Toyin, who never thought she was good enough; who always cried because she was terrified to risk anything with the possibility of failure; who said "no" to herself so many times; who thought she was a waste of space.... That girl is still in me, I sometimes catch a memory from her and we both see through the same eyes. I wish I could go back and hug her, and show her the woman she has become. But more than anything, I want to give her this issue, so she can see her name and pour over the pages, knowing--SEEING--that she did in fact dare to dream and that dream is in print, in these very pages. Completely floored and honored to be the cover feature of @juxtapozmag's November 2017 issue. It's been a journey, and I'm not done. 🙏🏿✨🌹 -- #ToyinOjihOdutola

Over time, art became an "investigative, learning activity" and eventually her career after she got a Bachelor of Arts degree in Studio Art and Communications from the University of Alabama in Huntsville in 2008. She later earned a Master of Fine Arts degree from the California College of the Arts in 2012.

Odutola, best known for highly-detailed portrait drawings, entirely or primarily done in black pen ink, charcoal, pastel, and pencil, is influenced by African American portraitures like Jacob Lawrence, Elizabeth Catlett, Romare Bearden and Barkley L. Hendricks. They were introduced to her by her high school art teacher, Dana Bathurst.

Artsy describes her work as drawings that "question physical and sociopolitical identities as they pertain to skin colour. Treating the skin as topography, she layers ink as a means of mapping a person's subjective, individual geography built from real-life experiences."

"Her interest in surface qualities stems from the history of African textiles, which inspires the artist's rich textures on flat planes. Concerned with historical representations of black subjects in portraiture, Odutola undermines notions of blackness in her drawings by exploring what it means to look or be perceived as black, as, while drawn in black ink, not all of her subjects are of African descent."

Her work has landed her on the Forbes' 2012 list of 30 notable individuals under 30, Juxtapoz Magazine in November 2017, The New York Times Magazine 'The Lives They Lived' issue, published on December 30, 2018, and on the shortlist of artists for the Future Generation Art Prize for 2019.

Odutola has participated in several exhibitions including The Drawing Center, New York (2018–19); Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (2017–18); Brooklyn Museum, New York (2016); Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis (2015); Studio Museum Harlem, New York (2015, 2012); Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, Ridgefield (2013); and Menil Collection, Houston, (2012).

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