Skepta to auction off debut painting in co-curated Sotheby’s sale

Skepta is set to sell his debut painting as part of an auction he’s co-curated for Sotheby’s’ Contemporary Curated series. The painting, titled Mama Goes to Market, will be exhibited at Sotheby’s’ New Bond Street galleries later this week, before being auctioned off as part of a lot featuring pieces by Omar Ba, Theaster Gates and Ouattara Watts, among others.

Nine of the works being sold as part of this year’s Contemporary Curated lot were handpicked by Skepta; the London rapper chose each piece because “they all had an African feeling about them”. “Whether they were created by African artists or not, they all share in this essence,” he said in a statement. “In one way or another, they triggered powerful dialogues with my painting too.” Notable pieces chosen by Skepta include Simon Helps, a 1986 painting by Sir Frank Bowling, and Addicktion, a portrait by British-Ghanaian painter Lynette Yiadom-Boakye.

Skepta produced Mama Goes to Market in 2020, during the first lockdown. He describes the piece, which was inspired by childhood memories of Nigeria, as having come “from a real frustration”, as well as concern that his daughter would never be able to go to an African market. “I thought, ‘She will always have to buy everything online, she’s never going to experience this,’” he said, “so I tried to portray it in paint.” The painting’s pre-sale estimate is £40,000 to £60,000, although there is no guarantee that it will sell at that price.

Skepta’s last album was 2020’s Insomnia, a collaboration with Chip and Young Adz. The year prior, he released Ignorance Is Bliss, which debuted at No 2 on the UK albums chart and has been certified Gold. In 2017, Skepta won the Ivor Novello for Songwriter of the Year, a year after he won the Mercury prize for his album Konnichiwa.