Ben Enwonwu’s Anyanwu statue sets new record

Ben Enwonwu’s Anyanwu has set a new record for a sculpture by the artist at auction.

It realised £353,000 ($441,285) at Bonhams' Africa Now auction in London, an increase of 135.3% on its £150,000 ($187,515) estimate.

Enwonwu created the work to commemorate the opening of the National Museum in Lagos, Nigeria in 1954.

Ben Enwonwu Anyanwu

Ben Enwonwu is Nigeria's most celebrated contemporary artist

At the time, a wave of independence movements was sweeping Africa, in opposition to European colonial rule.

Enwonwu sought to capture this growing confidence.

He 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.”

While a number of smaller versions of the statue have auctioned in the past, this is the first full size version ever offered.

Giles Peppiatt, Bonhams’ director of African art, commented: "Ben Enwonwu was the first important Nigerian artist to reflect the sculptural traditions of his people in his work.

“Nowhere is this more spectacularly displayed than in his masterpiece Anyanwu.

“As the result achieved indicates – this is a new world record for an Enwonwu sculpture – there was fierce bidding to secure the right to own this exceptional and moving piece.”

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