Last September, global art experts were surprised to see Aboudia, a graffiti-inspired artist from Ivory Coast, top the list of the world’s best-selling artists. He outperformed famous names like Damian Hirst and Banksy, selling the most pieces at auction the previous year. According to the Hiscox Artist Top 100, Aboudia, whose real name is Abdoulaye Diarrassouba, sold 75 pieces, with one canvas going for £504,000 ($640,000).

While leading art marketplace Artsy called Aboudia’s achievement “striking” and The Guardian noted experts were “blindsided,” Aboudia himself wasn’t surprised. In an interview at a London gallery filled with his works, he attributed his success to hard work, saying, “If you work hard, success is going to come.”

Aboudia’s colorful, layered canvases depict life in Abidjan, Ivory Coast’s largest city, focusing on street children and the hardships they face. His portrayals of the 2011 civil war in Ivory Coast, with haunting images of armed soldiers and vacant-eyed figures, also gained significant attention. Despite the perception that his rise was swift, Aboudia insists it was the result of 15 years of effort.

Born in 1983 in Abengourou, Aboudia was expelled from home at 15 after expressing his desire to become an artist. He persevered, sleeping in his art school classroom due to lack of support. His style, influenced by Abidjan’s street graffiti and modernist Ivorian artists, emerged as he carted his paintings around local galleries, often facing rejection.

The 2010 civil war, triggered by then-president Laurent Gbagbo’s refusal to step down, saw Aboudia take refuge in his basement studio, creating 21 powerful paintings during the conflict. These works earned him international acclaim and the support of prominent collectors like Charles Saatchi and Jean Pigozzi. He has since exhibited at major venues, including Christie’s New York and the Venice Biennale.

Aboudia’s success coincides with a surge in the African art market, with contemporary and modern African art sales reaching record highs. He now splits his time between Ivory Coast and New York, and through the Aboudia Foundation, supports children and young artists in his home country.

Aboudia remains grounded and focused on daily work rather than long-term plans, a perspective shaped by years of persistence. This story, showcasing Aboudia’s remarkable journey and impact, is detailed in a report by the BBC.

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