World record for African artist at Bonhams

Anyanwu by the pioneering Nigerian sculptor and painter, Ben EnwonwuAn auction world record of £353,000 has been set at Bonhams’ recent Africa Now – Modern Africa Sale for a sculpture by pioneering Nigerian sculptor and painter, Ben Enwonwu.

The sculpture entitled Anyanwu is a 6ft 10 high statue that was first conceived in 1954 and is considered to be the artist’s masterpiece. It was commissioned to mark the establishment of the National Museum in Lagos, outside which it still stands.

Enwonwu made a number of versions of the statue in different sizes over many years – subtly altering the concept with each edition – but this was the first full-sized cast to come to auction. It is from the second edition cast in 1956, and is believed to the only one of this size from the second edition in existence.

Bonhams Director of African Art, Giles Peppiatt, said, “Ben Enwonwu was the first important Nigerian artist to reflect the sculptural traditions of his people in his work. Nowhere is this more spectacularly displayed than in his masterpiece Anyanwu. As the result achieved indicates – this is a new world record for an Enwonwu sculpture –  there was fierce bidding to secure the right to own this exceptional and moving piece.”

The statue had an estimate of £150,000 to £200,000.

Other highlights of the sale included:

 The Duet, by Yusuf Grillo (b 1934) which sold for £87,500. Estimate £70,000-100,000.

Negritude by Enwonwu which made £83,750.  Estimate £40,000-60,000.

 The Glory of Ancient Benin, Song of the City by Enwonwu.  Sold for £75,000 against an estimate of £70,000-100,000.

 Adam and Eve by Prof. Uche Okeke which sold for £56,250.  Estimate £20,000-30,000.

In total, the sale made more than £1.4 million.

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