Toyin Odutola used art to escape the identity crisis that plagued her childhood. And that was pretty much how she started on the journey to becoming Nigeria’s third highest-paid artist of all time.
Nigerian artist, Toyin Odutola, just got her painting — something she titled “Compound Leaf” — get snapped up at Sotheby’s for NGN 215 Mn (about USD 600 K). It was a feat that saw her become the third highest-paid Nigerian artist of all time; an elite class which features the likes of Njideka Akunyili-Crosby and the legendary Ben Enwonwu.
Toyin Odutola has established herself as one of Nigeria’s finest artistic talents in the diaspora. She’s come a long way since moving to the United States at the age of five. But fitting in wasn’t easy. And that’s because she became acutely aware of racial prejudices only after leaving the shores of Nigeria.
Being only a child when she arrived in the United States, the relocation took its toll on her to some extent. According to her, adjusting to the new life was no cakewalk and she spent much of her younger years trying to discover her own identity, and that was only after she grew weary of trying too hard to fit in.
Art was her escape during those years. It was an activity that soothed her and helped her get away from the things that worried her the most. And it came naturally. Before long, art morphed into something of an investigative, learning activity for her.
“I was obsessed with capturing everything I saw and being fascinated with the incredibly simple task of looking at something and transmitting it onto paper. It’s immediate magic,” she tells Vogue.
It started out as a hobby but soon she found her groove, and then her mojo. And she knew art was something she wanted to do every day. And the rest is pretty much history.
Toyin Odutola is an artist unlike many as she has carved a niche for herself in the area of creating multimedia drawings on various surfaces investigating formulaic representations and how such images can be unreliable, systemic, and socially-coded. It’s an esoteric way of saying her work is kind of complex.
Odutola’s unique artistic technique has seen her feature in a number of high-profile exhibitions at various institutions including Whitney Museum of American Art, Brooklyn Museum, and The Drawing Centre — all in New York.
Her storied career in arts has also seen her do exhibitions at the Contemporary Art Museum of St. Louis, Studio Museum, Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, and The Menil Collection, among others.
Her permanent collections can be found at the Museum of Modern Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Birmingham Museum of Art, Whitney Museum of American Art, and several others, including art museums of some American Universities.