Artnet: "Nigerian Artist Ben Enwonwu Was an International Star in the 1960s. Now His Art Is Making a Comeback"

Rebecca Anne Proctor, Artnet, October 15, 2020

The late artist's debut at Frieze Masters, plus stellar sales at auction, signal a turning point for the pioneering Modernist's visibility.


Ben Enwonwu has long been a household name in Nigeria and in African art circles. Yet it was only three years ago that the late pioneer of African art—often called “the father of African Modernism” and arguably one of the most influential African artists of the 20th century—was rediscovered outside the continent.


At this year’s digital edition of Frieze Masters, the late artist is being shown by the Lagos-based Kó art gallery, which was founded this year by Indian-born collector Kavita Chellaram, who also founded the Lagos-based auction house Arthouse Contemporary.


Twelve Enwonwu works, including oils, works in gouache and on wood, and bronze sculptures, all executed between 1940 and 1980, are included in the Spotlight section of the fair, which features solo presentations by pivotal artists of the 20th century. “Enwonwu was widely collected until his death and then there was a lull until we put him in our first auction in 2007,” Chellaram told Artnet News.


“Then there was the Bonhams sale in 2013, and ever since his work has gone up in value due to high demand. Through auctions, exhibitions, and private sales, Enwonwu has steadily earned his rightful place in African art history. Now we need more research, documentation, and representation of his work at institutions worldwide.”....