Paa ya Paa’s first Silent Art Auction, a unique experiment that went rather well, took place on October 7, 2018 afternoon.
“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.”
The auction consisted of more than 50 works of art, some of which had been painted 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 (PYP).
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.
The auction 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 United States International University (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.
She says she notified the artists more than once over the years “but only two of the artists came to collect their works”. PYP was founded in 1965 and Phillda came aboard in 1970.
Nonetheless, whatever art was sold at the auction, the artists would receive 50 percent of the sales, she adds.
The final tally on sales has not yet been made, but Phillda is already contacting artists whose works were sold so they can collect their 50 percent.
Among those whose works were sold are Yassir Ali, Caroline Mbirua, Uhuru Brown, Lionel Njuguna and Daniel Wanjau.