LAGOS (Reuters) – The Nigerian Mona Lisa, a portray misplaced for greater than 40 years and located in a London flat in February, is being exhibited in Nigeria for the first time since it disappeared.
“Tutu”, an artwork work by Nigeria’s best-known fashionable artist, Ben Enwonwu, was painted in 1974. It appeared at an artwork present in Lagos the next yr, however its whereabouts after that have been unknown, till it re-surfaced in north London.
The homeowners – who wished to stay nameless – had referred to as in Giles Peppiatt, an knowledgeable in fashionable and up to date African artwork at the London public sale home Bonhams, to determine their portray. He acknowledged Enwonwu’s portrait.
“It was discovered by myself on a pretty routine valuation call to look at a work by Ben Enwonwu,” mentioned Giles Peppiatt, director of up to date African artwork at Bonhams. “I didn’t know what I used to be going to see. I turned up, and it was this wonderful portray. We’d had no inkling ‘Tutu’ was there.
How it received there stays a little bit of a thriller, Peppiatt mentioned.
“All the household that owned it know is that it was owned by their father, who had enterprise pursuits in Nigeria. He traveled and picked it up within the late or mid-70s.”
The household put the portrait up for sale, and it was auctioned for 1.2 million kilos ($1.57 million) in February to an nameless purchaser. The sale made it the highest-valued work of Nigerian fashionable artwork bought at public sale.
“Tutu” was loaned to the Art X Lagos truthful, held from Friday to Sunday, by Access Bank, the organizers mentioned in a press release. Peppiatt mentioned Access organized the mortgage however is just not the portray’s proprietor.
“‘Tutu’ is referred to as the African ‘Mona Lisa’ by virtue of this disappearance and re-emergence, and it is the first work of a modern Nigerian artist to sell for over a million pounds,” mentioned Tokini Peterside, the artwork truthful’s founder.
The unique Mona Lisa, Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece, was stolen from the Louvre in 1911. The thief, Vincenzo Peruggia, finally took it to Italy, the place it was recovered and in 1914 returned to the Louvre.
The Nigerian portray is a portrait of Adetutu Ademiluyi, a grand-daughter of a standard ruler from the Yoruba ethnic group. It holds particular significance in Nigeria as an emblem of nationwide reconciliation after the 1967-70 Biafran War.
Enwonwu belonged to the Igbo ethnic group, the most important within the southeastern area of Nigeria, which had tried to secede underneath the identify of Biafra. The Yoruba, whose homeland is within the southwest, have been totally on the opposing aspect within the warfare.
Enwonwu painted three variations of the portrait. One is in a personal assortment in Lagos, whereas Peppiatt is searching the third in Washington D.C., the knowledgeable mentioned. Prints first made within the 1970s have been in circulation ever since and the photographs are acquainted to many Nigerians. Enwonwu died in 1994.
Reporting by Seun Sanni and Angela Ukomadu, writing by Paul Carsten, modifying by Larry King