Bonhams is trying something new with their African art sale at the end of February. The sale will be simulcast to an audience in Lagos, Nigeria where bidders will be able to participate directly in the sale:
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. 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.
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 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.