Ben Enwonwu Anyanwu

Ben Enwonwu’s famous sculpture Anyanwu will headline Bonhams’ Africa Now sale in London on February 15.

The original cast of the work was made by Enwonwu to commemorate the opening of the National Museum in Lagos, Nigeria in 1954.  

Ben Enwonwu Anyanwu

Ben Enwonwu's Anyanwu is regarded as his masterpiece

This example was cast in 1954. Another edition was gifted to the United Nations in 1966 and remains on display in the UN HQ building in New York.

Nigeria was on the path to independence in the 1950s and Enwonwu sought to capture this sense of change in his work.

Enwonwu explained: "My aim was to symbolise our rising nation.

“This sculpture is spiritual in conception, rhythmical in movement and three dimensional in its architectural setting – these qualities are characteristic of the sculptures of my ancestors.”

Giles Peppiatt, Bonhams’ director of African art, said: "Ben Enwonwu was the first important Nigerian artist to reflect the sculptural traditions of his people in his work as is clearly and spectacularly evident in Anyanwu.

“For the artist, the statue was a visual manifestation of the new Nigeria, culturally confident and proud of her heritage."

The lot is expected to make around £100,000-150,000 ($121,425-182,138).

Enwonwu’s record for a sculpture is £361,250 ($438,846), set for a piece titled I in 2013. However, Anyanwu is often described as his masterpiece and looks likely to outperform it. 

Enwonwu is also a celebrated painter. His Spirit of Ogolo sold for a record £218,500 ($265,314) in 2016.

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