By Margaretta wa Gacheru (posted 9 october 2018)
Paa ya Paa’s first Silent Art Auction took place successfully last Sunday afternoon, 7 October.
“It was a giant experiment since we had never held a silent auction before,” says Phillda Njau, curator of the art auction. “But we learned a lot and it gave us an opportunity to invite local art lovers back to Paa ya Paa.”
Phillda Njau, curator of Paa ya Paa's first Silent art Auction
The auction consisted of more than 50 works of art, some of which had been painted back as long ago as the 1980s. Works by Sudanese artists such as Ahmed Abusharia, Ammar Salah and Yassir Ali were painted in the 1990s. That was when a slew of young men who were mostly graduates of the fine art school in Khartoum arrived in Kenya and only knew of one place to go and that was Paa ya Paa.
And there were works by artists who painted in the new millennium, from 2000 onward. They include artists like Uhuru Brown, Esther Mukuhi, Patrick Kariuki and Evans Maina Ngure.
Coincidentally with the art auction is something that Phillda has named ‘Project Facelift.” It will include a number of graffiti artists who have been working to spray paint artworks on some of the gallery’s mabati walls and fences for several years. They will be led by Swift Elegwa (aka Swift9).
But last Sunday was focused on sharing the artworks that all had a peculiar history. “All of the artworks in the auction have been with us for quite some time. Most of them were part of exhibitions that the artists left behind and didn’t come to collect,” says Phillda.
They had been kept in storage at the gallery for years. It was only when PYP started getting interns majoring in fine art from Kenyatta University and USIU that the situation changed.
“We were then able to bring all of that art out of storage, clean it up and hang it in the gallery until it was suggested that we have a silent auction,” recalls Phillda.
Noting that she had notified the artists more than once over the years (PYP was actually founded in 1965 and Phillda came in 1970) “But only two of the artists came to collect their works,” she says.
Nonetheless, whatever art was sold at the auction, she says the artists would receive 50 percent of the sales.
The final tally on sales has not yet been made, but Phillda is already contacting artists whose works were sold to tell them to come collect their 50 percent. Among those whose works sold are Yassir Ali, Caroline Mbirua, Uhuru Brown, Lionel Njuguna and Daniel Wanjau among others.