Aboudia tops global art market

Aboudia, a graffiti-inspired artist from Ivory Coast, has recently stunned the global art community by topping the list of the world’s best-selling artists, per bbc.com. In a remarkable achievement, Aboudia, whose real name is Abdoulaye Diarrassouba, surpassed iconic figures like Damien Hirst and Banksy, selling 75 pieces at auction last year. His most expensive canvas fetched an impressive £504,000.

This unexpected victory was highlighted in the Hiscox Artist Top 100, leaving many art experts blindsided by Aboudia’s ascent. Leading online marketplace Artsy described the achievement as “striking,” while The Guardian noted the surprise within the market.

In a London gallery adorned with his vivid and layered paintings, Aboudia expressed little surprise at his success. “If you work hard, the success is going to come,” he stated, dressed in his characteristic black attire complemented by beaded bracelets. For Aboudia, the journey is about the art first; everything else follows.

Aboudia’s art, characterised by its vibrant colours and intense imagery, stands in stark contrast to his calm demeanour. His works feature cartoon-like figures inspired by the streets of Abidjan, Ivory Coast’s largest city, created with a mix of oil sticks, acrylics, and recycled materials such as newspapers. These pieces depict the stark realities of life in downtown Abidjan, focusing particularly on the struggles of street children.

His experiences during the 2011 Ivorian civil war also find poignant expression in his art. With vacant-eyed figures and menacing soldiers, Aboudia’s paintings from this period capture the raw intensity and horror of the conflict. “There’s a misconception that my rise to the top came quickly,” he said. “No – I worked like 15 or 10 years for that.”

Born in 1983 in Abengourou, about 200km from Abidjan, Aboudia faced early hardships, including being expelled from home at 15 for his artistic ambitions. Despite these challenges, he pursued his passion, eventually enrolling in art school and later being accepted into the prestigious École des Beaux-Arts in Abidjan.

Influenced by the Vohou Vohou movement and determined to depict his environment authentically, Aboudia embraced a raw, graffiti-inspired style. His work resonated internationally, leading to exhibitions in prestigious venues like Christie’s New York and the Venice Biennale.

Aboudia’s rise coincides with the burgeoning African art market, which saw a record auction sales value in 2021. His ability to convey raw emotion and address themes of urban life and conflict has garnered international acclaim.

Splitting his time between Ivory Coast and New York, Aboudia remains dedicated to supporting young artists through the Aboudia Foundation. Despite his global success, he takes life one day at a time, a testament to his enduring resilience and focus on his craft.


  • Featured image: Aboudia stands in front of his paintings/Larkin Durey


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