Nigeria: Ben Enwonwu's Anyanwu Sets New Local Auction Record, Sells for N52m

Ben Enwonwu made being an artist a respectable profession.
5 June 2018

Months after his long-lost portrait painting sold for £1,205,000 (N520.2 million, €1.4 million, $1.7 million) at Bonhams Africa Now sale in London, "Anyanwu," another work by Ben Enwonwu sold for N52 million at the Arthouse Auction of Modern and Contemporary Art held in Lagos yesterday.

The second best-selling work at the auction was "Negritude", a painting by the artist, which sold for N40 million.

"Anyanwu", which was first sold last year at Bonhams for a record £353,000 (N138.4 million), is a full-size cast of the bronze sculpture by the iconic Nigerian artist.

Also, at a previous Arthouse auction, the bronze sculpture sold for N21 million as the highest selling work.

The work, which expresses Enwonwu's notion of a new Nigeria, which is culturally-confident and proud of her heritage, was first produced for the Nigerian National Museum in 1975.

A bigger version was later produced for the United Nation's building in New York.

On the sculpture, Enwonwu said: "My aim was to symbolise our rising nation. I have tried to combine material, crafts and traditions, to express a conception that is based on womanhood - woman, the mother and nourisher of man.

"In our rising nation, I see the forces embodied in womanhood; the beginning, and then, the development and flowering into the fullest stature of a nation - a people!

"This sculpture is spiritual in conception, rhythmical in movement and three dimensional in its architectural setting - these qualities are characteristic of the sculptures of my ancestors."

It was featured among the other lots at the Arthouse Contemporary 20th auction auction with works by such already acknowledged masters and leading contemporary artists as Bruce Onobrakpeya, Ben Osawe, Kolade Oshinowo, Ablade Glover, Chuks Anyanwu, David Dale, Ato Delaquis, Mavua Lessor, Uzo Egonu, Obi Enkwenchi, Okpu Eze, Lamidi Fakeye, Amos Odion, Abiodun Olaku, Muraina Oyelami, Jacob Afolabi, Susanne Wenger and Sam Ovraiti, who are easily the sub-region's most celebrated.

Specifically, this edition featured over 20 works culled from the collection of a prominent art collector.

These works include works by Ben Enwonwu, Tayo Adenaike, David Dale, Okpu Eze, Abayomi Barber, Jimoh Buraimoh, Solomon Wangboje, Abiodun Olaku, Dele Jegede, Ben Osawe, Kolade Oshinowo, Bruce Onobrakpeya, Sam Ovraiti, Twins Seven Seven, Simon Okeke, Obiora Udechukwu and Ben Osaghae.

Also among the front-line contemporary artists featured in the auction are El Anatsui, Peju Alatise, Rom Isichei, Sokari Douglas Camp, Ndidi Emefiele, Lemi Ghariokwu, Alimi Adewale, Duke Asidere, Chike Obeagu, Uche Okpa-Iroha, Oluseye/Lakin Ogunbanwo, Ade Adekola and Michael Soi.

The biannual auction held the Kia Showroom, along the upmarket Victoria Island neighbourhood's arterial thoroughfare Adeola Odeku Street also marks the 10th year anniversary of Arthouse auctions.

Founded sometime in late 2007, the auction house set up by Mrs Chellaram focuses mainly on modern and contemporary art from West Africa.

In the course of its decade-long existence, it has also featured a handful works by East African artists alongside others in its past auctions.

Monday's auction leveraged on the recent performance of African art in the global art scene.

The auction as usual was led by the English-born auctioneer, John Dabney, who has been part of the biannual event from inception and was sponsored by Access Bank, Kia Motors, Veuve Clicquot, 7UP, Le Connaisseur, and Shiro.

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