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London’s TAFETA Gallery to Present First Exhibition of Renowned Nigerian Artist Ben Enwonwu MBE, at the Armory Show in New York
New York--TAFETA is honoured to present the first solo exhibition of Ben Enwonwu MBE at a global art fair, showcasing works from the Nigerian modernist from the late 1950’s, until the final years of his practice.
Considered the founding father of Nigerian Modernism, Enwonwu who died in 1994, was a celebrated painter and sculptor whose works are in the permanent collection of the Tate in London, the Smithsonian, Fisk University Museum and the National Gallery's in Lagos and Harare.
Very well regarded throughout the African continent, Enwonwu’s Tutu; a 1973 portrait of an Ife princess, was sold last year at a London auction for $1.6 million, to a Lagos-based collection of contemporary art.
Inspired by African dance, Igbo masquerades, the black female body and resistance towards colonial representations of Africa, the exhibit showcases a cross-section of works from a number of the artist's recurring themes, spanning a 50-year career.
Of particular note is the 1975 version of Enwonwu’s iconic bronze sculpture titled Anyanwu (meaning “Awakening” in Igbo), a 6-foot version of which is on permanent display at the United Nations headquarters in New York.
Originally produced in 1954-1955 for the National Museum in Lagos, the sculpture symbolizes the rising sun and the dawn of a soon-to-be independent nation.
Of this work, Enwonwu remarked:
"This sculpture is spiritual in conception, rhythmical in movement, and three dimensional in its architectural setting - qualities which are characteristic of the sculptures of my ancestors."
The exhibited version of Anyanwu is widely considered Enwonwu’s magnum opus and can be found in private and public collections around the world, including that of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace.
Two large paintings and one sculpture from the Africa Dances series, three works from the Ogolo series executed in England, and early portraiture in paper and bronze complete the presentation.
About the Artist
Benedict Enwonwu, painter and sculptor: born Onitsha, Nigeria 1921; MBE 1958; Nigerian National Merit Award 1980; died Lagos 1994
Ben Enwonwu MBE graduated from the Slade School of Art with distinction in Sculpture, following studies at Ruskin College, Oxford and Goldsmiths College, London. He was awarded an MBE in 1958 after serving as Nigeria's official artist and artist ambassador under the colonial government. He exhibited a commissioned bust of Queen Elizabeth II at the annual exhibition of the Royal Society of British Artists in 1957.
Enwonwu's work has been exhibited widely around the world in institutions such as the Whitechapel Gallery, London; Museum Villa Stuck, Munich; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; and MoMA PS1, New York. The works have seen a substantial increase in commercial value over the last five years – frequently setting new auction house records for African modernism.
Works by the artist have been placed in numerous institutional collections globally, including the permanent collection of the National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC.
ARMORY SHOW 2019
MARCH 7 - 10 2019
PIER 90 – BOOTH 114