Missing but found Ben Enwonwu masterpiece, ‘Tutu’ sells at world record breaking £1,000,000 at the Bonhams African Art auction held in London on Wednesday but broadcast live to bidders at The Wheatbaker Hotel, Lagos.
Previously estimated between £200,000-300,000, Enwonwu’s ‘Tutu’ breaks a new world record for Nigerian art.
The missing masterpiece, ‘Tutu’ was found in earlier in February in a north London flat.
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 turns out to be a print.
However, he was approached by the family from 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 have chosen to remain anonymous was described by Peppiatt described 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.”