Adetutu Ademiluyi, a painting of an Ife princess by Ben Enwonwu, late Nigerian legendary sculptor, is set to break records of auctions sales of works by an African artist in London with an expected sale of between £200,000 to £300,000 (approximately N15 million) on February 28, 2018 in London.
The artwork is expected to surpass the revenue from a series of Enwonwu’s sculptures, which sold for £361,250 in 2013 and ‘Anyanwu’ a 6ft 10 inches bronze work also by the sculptor, which sold for N54 million in a 2016 auction sale in London.
The artwork, which is popularly called Tutu, was lost for decades after its first offer to the public in London in 1974 and was recovered last year from a flat in North London by Giles Peppiatt, director of modern African art at Bonhams, the London-based auction house.
“As is often the way, there are things your parents buy and you haven’t a clue why they bought it or what the value of it is … you just inherit it,” Peppiatt said after recovering the valuable artwork from the flat occupied by an ordinary family in North London.
In anticipation of the auction sale of the painting at Bonhams in London on February 28, 2018, Peppiatt explained that the sale would also be broadcast live to bidders in Lagos in recognition of the growing collectors and art market in Nigeria.
Speaking on the development, Oliver Enwonwu, director, Omenka Galleries Ikoyi, Lagos and son of late Ben Enwonwu, said the recovered artwork, which was replicated in three editions, was the second piece of same work done by his father in 1974.
He commended the appreciated value, noting that the artwork was a great piece done in the heyday of his father’s creative ingenuity, hence can command as much as between N10 million to N15 million (£200,000 to £300,000) in the London auction.
While his gallery has no intention of bidding for the work, he encouraged Nigerian art collectors to give the February 28 auction at Bonhams London a good chase.
Simi Onabule, an art collector, noted that offering Nigerians an opportunity to bid for the artwork was most kind of the London-based auction house as art is now an investment and not just for decorations.
“Probably the first buyer of the artwork bought it less than a thousand pounds, but look at the value today and it is still growing. If I buy that work today, I can resell it for double the price in five years,” Onabule said.
Bola Asiru, a gallery owner, said the artwork is worth going for and is likely going to break records in the auction sale later this month because of the legendary artist behind it, the number of years and place of auction as well.
Tutu is one of the greatest masterpieces of late Ben Enwonwu, and was on display at his funeral in 1994. The whereabouts of the other Tutu paintings remains a mystery until this discovery of the latest in the series.