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Missing Ben Enwonwu Masterpiece, Tutu, Found In London

  • May Sell for £200,000 and £300,000 at Bonhams February 28 Auction

Tutu by Ben Enwonwu

ADEDOYIN JOHNSON

A missing Ben Enwonwu masterpiece, ‘Tutu’ has been found in a north London flat The Guardian UK reports.

The 1974 portrait of an Ile-Ife princess, Adetutu Ademiluyi, has been lost for many decades and there has been many poster reproductions of it over the years.

The work was discovered by Giles Peppiatt, the director of modern African art at the auction house Bonhams who said he gets a Tutu sent to him every eight weeks. Often, they turn out to be a print.

However, he was approached by the family from north London to see the said painting by Enwonwu.

“Sometimes you go somewhere on a wing and a prayer,” he told The Guardian, “you don’t know what you are going to see … this was an enormous surprise. It is a picture, image-wise, that has been known to me for a long time, so it was a real lightbulb moment; I thought: ‘Oh my god, this is extraordinary.’”

The family who have chosen to remain anonymous was described by Peppiatt as perfectly ordinary. The painting was something their father had acquired, he said, adding: “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.”

The painting will be sold at Bonhams in London on 28 February but such is the anticipated interest – “its appearance on the market is a momentous event”, said Peppiatt – that the sale will also be broadcast live to bidders in Lagos.

It is expected to sell for between £200,000 and £300,000. If it goes over the upper limit it will set a new record for a modern Nigerian artist.

Some collectors doubt the authenticity of the work while some others said it could be an original. An anonymous source told TLR that an original painting of Tutu has been previously seen in Nigeria. That was when late arts collector, Rasheed Gbadamosi, promised to reward handsomely anyone with the original work, yet nobody came forward to declare ownership of the work.

Efforts to reach Oliver Enwonwu, son of late Ben Enwonwu as at the time of filing this report was abortive.