For its first Frieze Masters showing, Lagos-based gallery kó has turned its focus to Nigerian painter and poet Obiora Udechukwu, presenting a series of paintings and drawings completed between 1960 and 1990. They range from figurative early works depicting refugees of the Nigerian Civil War in cold tonalities, to enigmatic, abstracted watercolors inspired by the lines, shapes, and patterns of Uli art—“an Igbo art tradition that was historically used for body art and wall murals,” explained gallery founder Kavita Chellaram. “In later works in the 1990s, there is a real emphasis on color and scale.” The works on paper are priced between $5,000 and $10,000, while paintings range from $25,000 to $200,000 depending on the size and period.
While not as well known outside of the country as within its borders, Chellaram said the artist has been “an important voice in the development of modern art in Nigeria,” inspiring a generation of artists while serving as director of the art department at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. It seems the Tate has taken note: At the fair, the institution acquired one painting and three works on paper by Udechukwu for its permanent collection.