Ben Enwonwu's Princess of Mali to top Bonhams' Africa Now auction

Princess of Mali (1976), a painting by Ben Enwonwu, will lead Bonhams' Africa Now sale of contemporary art from the continent.

It will auction in London on May 21 with an £80,000-120,000 ($130,000-200,000) estimate.

Enwonwu (1917-1994) is credited with merging the sculptural and artistic traditions of his native Nigeria with those of Western contemporary art.

A new record for his work was set at Bonhams' Africa Now auction last year when a set of wooden sculptures commissioned by the Daily Mirror in the 1960s made £361,250 ($610,223).

Ben Enwonwu Princess
Ben Enwonwu is one of Nigeria's best known artists

Contemporary Nigerian art has enjoyed strong growth in recent years, with a 21.8% increase in sales last year at Bonhams indicating that more collectors are beginning to take note.   

Giles Peppiatt, director of contemporary African art at Bonhams, explained: "Many collectors are looking at contemporary African art expecting it to be the next market where values will increase in the same manner as contemporary Chinese art.

"Certainly the interest in this field has exploded with international collectors snapping up some of the best works that come to the market."

Peppiatt went on to say that new world records are being set with each sale, driving the market forward and increasing recognition for some of Africa's greatest artists, most of whom have been unfairly marginalised.

The sale will feature a number of other works by Enwonwu alongside pieces by Yusuf Adebayo Grillo and EL Anatsui.

Check out our art and photography selection here.

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