REDISCOVERED NIGERIAN CULTURAL ICON – THE LOST PORTRAIT OF TUTU – AT BONHAMS AFRICA NOW SALE IN LONDON


Africa Now
28 Feb 2018
London, New Bond Street

Tutu, a 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 Wednesday 28 February. In a pioneering move, the sale will be broadcast live to a Bonhams auction event in Lagos, where bidders will be able to participate in real time. This will also be the first ever evening sale of Contemporary African Art.

Enwonwu painted three versions of Tutu during 1973–74, and the image became a symbol of national reconciliation for a country struggling for unity in the wake of the Nigerian–Biafran conflict of the late 1960s. All three paintings had been considered lost until the discovery of the current picture for sale.

Writing in the spring edition of Bonhams Magazine, the Nigerian-born Booker Prize winning 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."

The series was of great personal significance to Enwonwu. The first painting, executed in 1973, remained in the artist's studio until his death in 1994. It was lost at some point after that, and its current whereabouts are unknown. The location of the third Tutu painting is also a mystery, leaving the work for sale at Bonhams as the only known example of the image.

Bonham's Director of Modern African Art, Giles Peppiatt said, "The portrait of Tutu is a national icon in Nigeria, and of huge cultural significance. It is very exciting to have discovered the only painting of the series that we now know still exists. Its appearance on the market is a momentous event and we expect it to generate enormous interest."

The sale also includes:

Negritude also by Enwonwu, estimated at £60,000-90,000. This gouache explores the ideology of 'Negritude'; a movement that sought to foster black pride and throw off the cultural influences of European colonization.

At the Ancestors' Conference by the Ghanaian artist, El Anatsui, estimated at £20,000-30,000. It is part of the Ancestor series, a group of figurative sculptures the artist executed in 1995.

A Throne for Two Kings by the Mozambican Gonçalo Mabunda, estimated at £10,000-15,000. The artist grew up at the height of the civil war that ravaged Mozambique from 1977- 1995, an experience reflected in his work. A Throne for Two Kings has been constructed from gun parts and bullet casings which have been welded into a careful decorative arrangement.

The auction will also include six artworks originally in the collection of the renowned art patron and philanthropist, Jean Pigozzi. When Pigozzi visited the seminal exhibition at the Centre Georges Pompidou, Magiciens de la Terre, in 1989, he was greatly excited by a number of works by contemporary African artists, many of whom had never before exhibited overseas.

Over the following years, Pigozzi built the most extensive private collection of contemporary African art, part of which he sold in 1999 to fund the Jean Pigozzi Prize for Contemporary African Art - awarded to a sub-Saharan contemporary painter, sculptor or photographer.

Contacts
  1. Giles Peppiatt
    Specialist
    Bonhams
    Work
    101 New Bond Street
    London, United Kingdom W1S 1SR
    Work +44 20 7468 8355
    FaxFax: +44 20 7468 5839

Related auctions