ENWONWU SETS HIGHEST RECORD FOR ART SOLD IN NIGERIA
by Ladun Ogidan
On May 9, 2016, Ben Enwonwu’s 1990 painting Obitun Dancers set a new record as the top-selling work on the domestic secondary market in Nigeria at the 16th Modern and Contemporary sale by leading auction house, Arthouse at The Wheatbaker, Lagos.
The 102 x 76cm painting earlier estimated between ₦18,000,000-22,000,000 was sold at ₦46,000,000, breaking the previous record of ₦30,800,000 (buyer’s premium inclusive) for any work sold on the Nigerian art market. This figure was set at Arthouse on November 21, 2011 for Enwonwu’s Anyanwu, 1956, 142.2 cm, estimated between ₦20,000,000 and 25,000,000.
Obitun Dancers exemplifies Enwonwu’s fascination with the theme of dancing women from as early as 1940. According to art historian Chika Okeke-Agulu “…The rendering of the wrappers of the two dominant figures as rigid, triangular shapes of colour and the suggestion of dynamic movement with sharp intersecting lines and planes is characteristic of a series of paintings, sometimes called ‘Glory of Ancient Benin’, the earliest of which he produced in the 1940s.”
The second highlight of the evening was Yusuf Grillo’s 1999-2002 oil on board, Threatened Innocence, 122 x 61cm, which sold at ₦16,000,000 against its previous estimate of ₦15,000,000-17,000,000 while fast-rising contemporary artist Ndidi Emefiele’s 2016 Rainbow Café, sold at ₦3,000,000, above her previous estimate of ₦1,000,000-1,500,000.
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