Nigerian born Toyin Ojih Odutola has become the third highest-paid Nigerian artist of all time after her drawing “Compound Leaf” sold at the Sotheby’s for £471,000 (roughly N215 million).
The record-breaking sale puts Odutola behind fellow female artist, Njideka Akunyili-Crosby, and the legendary Ben Enwonwu.
After moving from Nigeria to America at the age of five, Ojih Odutola became aware of her blackness and began questioning her identity. Due to the shock of this transition, she used art as a coping mechanism, and over time, it transformed into an “investigative, learning activity” for her.
Speaking with Vogue about how art helped her escape, 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 an immediate magic.
Odutola creates multimedia drawings on various surfaces investigating formulaic representations and how such images can be unreliable, systemic, and socially-coded.
Odutola was born in 1985 in Ile-Ife, Nigeria, where both her parents were teachers.
In 1990, her family moved to Berkeley, California, where her father was doing research and teaching chemistry at the university. After four years in Berkeley, the family moved to Huntsville, Alabama, where her father became a professor and her mother a nurse. She is of Yoruba and Igbo descent from her paternal and maternal heritage.
She received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Studio Art and Communications from the University of Alabama in Huntsville in 2008. In 2012, she earned a Master of Fine Arts degree from California College of the Arts. She is represented by the Jack Shainman Gallery in New York City, where she lives and works.
She has participated in exhibitions at various institutions, including The Drawing Center, New York (2018—19); Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (2017—18); 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, Ridgefield (2013); and Menil Collection, Houston, (2012).
Her permanent collections 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 of Art.
Odutola’s collections have also been displayed in Philadelphia Museum of Art, Princeton University Art Museum, Spencer Museum of Art, Honolulu Museum of Art, and the National Museum of African Art (Smithsonian).