Skepta, one of the most well-known grime musicians and producers in the U.K., is debuting his first painting as part of an auction that he’s co-curating for Sotheby’s’ Contemporary Curated series in London.
The painting, titled Mama Goes to Market, was exhibited at Sotheby’s’ New Bond Street galleries this week and will be auctioned off as part of a lot featuring pieces by Omar Ba, Theaster Gates and Ouattara Watts, and others.
Skepta described his work as a "brought-together memory of Nigeria." He created the piece while on lockdown during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.
"My mum used to carry me just as the woman in my painting carries her child," he said. "I always planned to include these four figures: a young boy, two women engrossed in conversation, and another lady rationing rice into a bowl beside baskets brimming with fruit and veg. I designed their clothes too—Nigerian Couture.”
Although this is Skepta's first venture into the art world, he noted that his transition was a natural one.
"When you make music—because it comes with music videos, styling, set design, and everything else—you naturally get subsumed into the world of art as well, getting your teeth stuck into different movements (and) styles as a way to inspire your own creativity," he explained.
Music producer Slawn, graffiti artist Goldie and graphic designer Chito helped to complete Skepta's painting by adding graffiti onto the walls of the piece. Additionally, pieces by each artist will be featured in the collection as well.
The art show is the second London edition of Sotheby's Contemporary Curated series held this year and nine of the works being sold were chosen by Skepta. He handpicked 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 one way or another, they triggered powerful dialogues with my painting too.”
Lisa Stevenson, Sotheby's Head of Curated Sales, said that Skepta’s painting was "the perfect fit" for the series.
"(The sales have) always been tied to our desire to collaborate with exciting and culturally relevant tastemakers across all disciplines—be it fashion, food, business, culture, art, or music—
and, in turn, open our doors even wider to audiences," she said.
"It has been incredible collaborating with him, whose music, lyrics, and creativity continue to inspire many of this generation,” she added.
Skepta’s piece is estimated to sell between $46,000-$69,000. He hopes that the potential buyer will enjoy it just as much as he did painting it.
"I want it to serve its purpose: for someone to enjoy it," he adds.