Nige­rian mas­ter­piece ‘Tutu’ sells for £1.2m at auc­tion

Sunday Trust - - ART & IDEAS -

Missing Nige­rian mas­ter­piece found in “mod­est north Lon­don flat” sold for more than £1m

Ben En­wonwu’s 1974 paint­ing of the Ife princess Ade­tutu Ade­miluyi, known as Tutu, be­came a sym­bol of rec­on­cil­i­a­tion af­ter Nigeria’s Bi­afra conflict.

The paint­ing, ex­pected to fetch £300,000, sold for £1,205,000 - a record for a mod­ern Nige­rian artist.

Nov­el­ist Ben Okri said its dis­cov­ery was “the most sig­nif­i­cant in con­tem­po­rary African art in 50 years”.

Bon­ham’s di­rec­tor of mod­ern African art Giles Pep­pi­att dis­cov­ered the paint­ing af­ter he was in­vited to ap­praise art­works at a “mod­est north Lon­don flat”.

Mr Pep­pi­att said he was reg­u­larly asked to look at ver­sions of Tutu which turn out to be copies.

It is not known how the piece came to be in north Lon­don and the own­ers have re­quested anonymity.

“The por­trait of Tutu is a na­tional icon in Nigeria, and of huge cul­tural sig­nif­i­cance,” Mr Pep­pi­att said.

“I am de­lighted that it gen­er­ated so much in­ter­est and set a new world record for the artist. It is very ex­cit­ing to have played a part in the dis­cov­ery and sale of this re­mark­able work.”

Mr En­wonwu, con­sid­ered the fa­ther of Nige­rian mod­ernism, painted three ver­sions of Tutu. All three went missing af­ter his death in 1994.

The where­abouts of the other Tutu paint­ings re­main a mys­tery.

Mr En­wonwu was a stu­dent at Gold­smiths, Ruskin Col­lege, Ox­ford, and the Slade art school in Eng­land in the 1940s.

He be­came more widely known when he was com­mis­sioned to cre­ate a bronze sculp­ture of the Queen dur­ing her visit to Nigeria in 1956.

Nige­rian Bay­ode Trea­sure Olawunmi dur­ing his bid to set a new Gui­ness World Record for the long­est Marathon Read­ing (aloud) in La­gos last week.

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