'Tutu' breaks record, sells for over N577,600000

Modesto Morganelli
Marzo 2, 2018

Perhaps the piqued interest in the image of Ife princess Adetutu "Tutu" Ademiluyi was not only because of the royal's story but because the painting went missing for 40 years before it turned up at a London apartment.

The portrait of Ademiluyi, who was a grand-daughter of a revered traditional ruler from the Yoruba ethnic group, holds special significance in Nigeria as a symbol of national reconciliation after the 1967-1970 Biafran War.

A Nigerian painting that was said to be missing for decades and was finally been found in a London home has been sold for a record breaking amount. Everybody keeps talking about Tutu, saying: "where is Tutu?" he said after a viewing at Bonhams. In the build-up to the auction, already optimistic auctioneers expected it to fetch as much as £300,000.

Late Benedict Chukwukadibia Enwonwu's "Tutu" painting has sold for over $1.6 million (N577,600,000).

In a new approach to bidding, the auction was broadcast live to a Bonhams auction event at The Wheatbaker Hotel in Lagos.

Bonhams announced the record price for the paint, which measures 97 x 66.5cm and was signed by Enwonwu and dated 1974.

The identity of the buyer of the Lot 47 has not been disclosed yet.

Enwonwu's work "Negritude", also painted in the 1970s, sold for £100,000 (113,000 euros $138,000) in the same sale.

The Booker prize-winning novelist Ben Okri told AFP this month that the painting had taken on nearly mythical status in his native Nigeria, where it was thought of as the African Mona Lisa.

The painter completed three versions of the piece based on Tutu, the other two are yet to be found. Enwonwu's son, Oliver, told the AFP, "We are very happy that modern Nigerian art has begun to get its actual value". "It is a cause for celebration, a potentially transforming moment in the world of art", he said.

Titu, by Nigerian-born artist Ben Enwonwu, was completed in 1973.

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