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Ben Enwonwu masterpieces highlight of Africa Now auction

TUTU: The rediscovered portrait sold for a record £1.2 million in London earlier this year

KEY WORKS by the Nigerian artist Ben Enwonwu will lead Bonhams’ Africa Now Sale in London next month.

The renowned artist’s works will be open to bidding at the Africa Now auction at Bonhams on Thursday October 4.

The painting, Rhapsody in Blue (1988) is one of 25 lots by the artist in the 121-lot sale. It has an estimated value of £60,000-£90,000.

Rhapsody in Blue depicts the silhouette of a female nude, reclining against a vibrant blue and yellow background. Enwonwu expresses his solidarity with the Negritude movement though his striking portrayal of the central female form.

Another leading work by Enwonwu that will be on sale at the auction is Ogolo (1989), a monumental, dark painting of a male masquerade figure, with an estimated value of £200,000-£300,000. Ogolo was executed by Enwonwu two years after the death of his elder brother, Ike Francis Enwonwu. Enwonwu had a preoccupation with the striking tribal figure, which reappeared in many of his works between the years of 1988-1994, after witnessing it during a traditional masquerade at his brother’s funeral.


STRIKING: Enwonwu's Rhapsody in Blue is estimated at £60,000-£90,000

Other Enwonwu highlights from the sale include: Ogolo, signed and dated 1992 – it has an estimate of £100,000-£150,000, Agbogo-Mmuo Ogolo, titled, signed and dated 1992 – part of the Igbo pantheon, the masquerade figures of Agbogho, Mmuo and Ogolo have been celebrated for centuries in Nigeria. It is estimated to be worth £80,000-120,000 and Tutu, 1974.

Earlier this year, Enwonwu’s Tutu set a record for the most expensive artwork to sell at an auction by a Nigerian modernist. The work is the second rediscovered portrait of Enwonwu’s famous sitter, the Ife royal, Princess Adetutu Ademiluyi, to come to market. The portrait, which until recently has been considered lost, has an estimate of £200,000-£300,000.

It sold for a record £1.2 million in London earlier this year.

Bonhams director of Modern African Art, Giles Peppiatt, said: “Ben Enwonwu’s reputation has always been high but since Bonhams record breaking sale of Ben Enwonwu's Tutu, 1974, in February, we are finding an increased interest in his works.

“Bonhams is honoured to have been entrusted with the sale of such a wonderful selection. His pieces are completely captivating and depict both the culture and landscape of Nigeria.”

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