Tunji Adeniyi-Jones, Red Twins, 2016. © Tunji Adeniyi-Jones. Photo by JSP Art Photography. Courtesy of the artist and White Cube.
On Wednesday, the major British gallery White Cube announced that Tunji Adeniyi-Jones is the latest emerging artist to join its roster. Currently based in New York, the London-born artist has rapidly gained art world momentum for his lushly rendered oil paintings portraying Matisse-like figures resting in colorful floral landscapes. The gallery, which maintains spaces in Hong Kong and London, will co-represent Adeniyi-Jones alongside Nicelle Beauchene Gallery in New York and Morán Morán in Los Angeles. Adeniyi-Jones joining White Cube, a top-tier global gallery, represents a significant milestone for the early-career artist—he graduated from Yale’s MFA program just four years ago. The move also comes amid accelerating primary- and secondary-market demand for Adeniyi-Jones’s compositions inspired by West African iconography.
Adeniyi-Jones’s work first appeared at auction in December 2020, when his sinuous painting of two scarlet-red figures in a jungle, Red Twins III (2018), sold for an astonishing $163,800—more than eight times the work’s high estimate—at a Phillips day sale. Just days before this surprising secondary-market benchmark, Morán Morán sold a comparable painting, Red Ancestor III (2020), to a New York–based collector and museum trustee for a price in the range of $20,000 to $40,000 at the virtual edition of Art Basel in Miami Beach. Interest in the artist’s rich depictions of Black leisure continued to rise after his record-breaking auction debut. In February of this year, Adeniyi-Jones’s Dance in Heat II (2020)—a sweltering canvas in which three figures sway alongside birds rendered in vibrant hues—was acquired by the Pérez Art Museum Miami through its Fund for Black Art. A month later, another large-scale composition by Adeniyi-Jones was offered at auction during a Sotheby’s sale in New York. The dark-toned 2018 painting Between the Blue Vine achieved a whopping price of $138,600. Though it failed to surpass Red Twins III’s staggering result from December, it did nearly triple its high estimate. With works by Adeniyi-Jones repeatedly fetching six figures at auction, the price points on the primary and secondary markets show a dramatic disconnect. At the 2020 edition of the Independent art fair in New York, Nicelle Beauchene sold out its solo booth of new works by Adeniyi-Jones, completed during his fellowship at Kehinde Wiley’s inaugural Black Rock residency. Large-scale paintings were priced at $25,000, while works on paper were priced lower at $2,000.In April of this year, his 2019 canvas Love Ritual, featuring two figures entwined in an embrace, skyrocketed past its high estimate of £40,000 ($55,126) to sell for a total of £151,200 ($208,379) at a Phillips evening sale in London—breaking the record set by his startling debut just five months earlier.
Red Ancestor III, 2020.
Dance in Heat II, 2020.
The frenzied demand for Adeniyi-Jones’s exuberant paintings and works on paper appears poised to continue. Along with the Pérez Art Museum, one of the artist’s paintings was acquired by the Dallas Museum of Art. He was also included in Forbes magazine’s “30 Under 30” class for 2020. Adeniyi-Jones’s rapid, global ascent is reflected on Artsy, where collector interest for his mystical figurations ballooned last year, when the number of inquiries on his work increased more than sevenfold, making it the artist’s biggest year on the platform overall.
After a remarkable 2020, this year is poised to be his busiest yet. The British artist’s first-ever solo exhibition in the United Kingdom is slated to take place this September at Charleston, the East Sussex farmhouse and studio of Bloomsbury Group members Duncan Grant and Vanessa Bell. The show will present a new body of work by the artist. Adeniyi-Jones’s first exhibition with White Cube is scheduled to open in mid-November in London. And in the United States, Morán Morán and Nicelle Beauchene will host solo shows of his work this fall and next spring, respectively.