Marc Saint-Laurent

By Damilola Animashau, February 9, 2018

Ben Enwonwu‘s painting of princess Adetutu Ademiluyi of Ife, is a national icon in Nigeria which has had several reproductions all over the country. Enwonwu originally created three paintings of Adetutu, and one painting has been found by an anonymous Nigerian family in London, after decades of going unseen, and is now being auctioned by Bonhams for £200,000- £300,ooo.

In 1971, Ben Enwonwu was appointed the first professor of Fine Art at the University of Ife, at a time when the violence that came with the Biafran war was still fresh in public consciousness, and academic institutions were responsible for lifting spirits amongst the youth to promote national reconciliation.Enwonwu’s paintings of princess Adetutu became a symbol of Nigerian reconciliation after the war, and when all three went missing over 40 years ago, it became a hot topic of speculation where there was a serious hunt for them.

One of the paintings from the series of three was discovered late last year, and the family who found it in their flat inherited it from their father. Giles Peppait, the director of modern art at Bonhams, revealed that he’s been sent on several wild goose chases trying to find the original Enwonwu piece, and described finding it as a “momentous event”.

Speaking to The Guardian about the missing Enwonwu piece, novelist Ben Okri said :

“It amounts to the most significant discovery in contemporary African art in over fifty years. It is the only authentic Tutu, the equivalent of some rare archaeological find.

It is a cause for celebration, a potentially transforming moment in the world of art.”

Nigerian author Ben Okri poses with a work of art by Nigerian painter and sculptor Ben Enwonwu entitled 'Tutu' expected to realise 200,000-300,000 GBP (278000-417,000 USD) at auction in Bonhams auction house London on February 7, 2018. Tutu, a recently rediscovered portrait of the Ife royal princess Adetutu Ademiluyi painted in 1974 by the Nigerian artist Ben Enwonwu, leads Bonhams Africa Now sale in London on February 28. The painting, one of a series of three versions, once thought lost came to light after having gone unseen for decades in a north London flat. The whereabouts of the other two versions remains a mystery. / AFP PHOTO / BEN STANSALL / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY MENTION OF THE ARTIST UPON PUBLICATION - TO ILLUSTRATE THE EVENT AS SPECIFIED IN THE CAPTION

Ben Okri posing with the portrait : Tutu (Photo: CBC)

While it’s interesting that Bonhams are the ones holding this auction when there are African auction houses who can, this could bring about a wider re-evaluation of African art. The auction will be held on February 28, and the painting will go for between £200,000 – £300,000 (350 000 – 525 000 canadians dollars)., and while we think it’s worth more than that, we’re looking forward to seeing how much it will go for!


Source : Konbini

February 9, 2018

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