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Ethiopian Artist Julie Mehretu Breaks African Art-World Record Again

US-based Ethiopian Julie Mehretu has once again broken the record for the highest sale price of any work by an African-born artist at auction. Her abstract painting Walkers With the Dawn and Morning fetched $10.7m (£8.6m) at Sotheby’s in New York on Wednesday.

The piece features ink and acrylic on canvas and takes its name from a 1920s Langston Hughes poem. Mehretu, 52, was born in Ethiopia and moved with her family to the US in 1977 at a time of political strife.

She has since become one of the most prominent names in the fast-growing contemporary African art world. Mehretu painted Walkers With the Dawn and Morningit as part of an exhibition created in response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and its impact on the US city of New Orleans.

The auction saw two bidders competing for the piece with the price gradually edging higher and higher. It went for $9.5m, but the final cost, once fees are added, took it to the record-breaking sum of $10.7m.

Mehretu also held the previous record of $9.3m, which was set last month. Walkers With the Dawn and Morning combines “all aspects of her inimitable style of mark making, including architectural drawing, brightly coloured vectors, and calligraphic sweeps”, Sotheby’s said.

The sale of the work is indicative of the strong interest in contemporary African art, which is now seeing a growing market for abstract work. “We are moving beyond that initial phase to something more discerning”, Hannah O’Leary, head of Sotheby’s modern and contemporary African art department told the Art Newspaper last month.

Earlier this year, Mehretu was chosen to create BMW’s next Art Car. Her work will be painted onto a BMW car that will be part of the 24 Hours of Le Mans race next year.

Source: BBC