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Rare pieces of modern African art from Ben Enwonwu on sale

AVAILABLE: 'The Glory of Ancient Benin, Song of the City' is just one of the Ben Enwonwu pieces on sale (photo credit: ©Bonhams)

ASKED BY the Nigerian government to create a work of art to celebrate the opening of the National Museum in Lagos, the late Ben Enwonwu's importance to the region is being acknowledged by London auction house Bonhams at their Modern Africa sale this month.

The six foot, 10 inch statue Enwonwu created was named Anyanwu and still sits outside of the museum today. A later version was created at the request of the authorities, which has been on display at the United Nations headquarters in New York since Nigeria marked its sixth year of independence in 1966. The statue is just one of the original pieces of African art which will be available to bid for on 15 February and is estimated to fetch at least £150,000.

PIECE DE RESISTANCE: The Anyanwu measures at nearly seven feet tall

Anyanwu means 'sun' in the tribal language of Igbo and has marked the entrance to Lagos' museum since the 1950s.

Before his passing, Enwonwu spoke about the creative process he underwent:

"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.”

Bonhams Director of African Art, Giles Peppiatt, says:

"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."

Also on sale at the Modern Africa auction on the 15th will be canvas paintings, The Glory of Ancient Benin, Song of the City and African Dancers which are expected to go for £50,000 and upwards each.

VIBRANT: The African Dancers piece

For more information on the auction, click here.

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