Fuelled by the sale of the portrait, Christine, by Ben Enwonwu (1917-1994)—which fetched more than seven times its pre-sale upper estimate of £150,000, Sotheby’s Modern and Contemporary African Art Auction in London on Tuesday (15 October 2019) soared to an impressive £4 million total sale—way beyond the pre-sale estimate of £2.8 million. New records were set for Ablade Glover, Wosene Worke Kosrof, Malangatana Ngwenya and Hussein Shariffe.
Top lots from the evening include:
Africa Dances (1970) by Ben Enwonwu sold for 471,000.
Cyclists in Sophiatown by Gerard Sekoto (South African, 1913-1993) sold for 362,500
Summer Rain in the Bushveld (1918) by Jacob Hendrik Pierneef (South African, 1886-1957)
Scribble Cat (Chasing Your Own Tail III) (2012), William Kentridge (South African, b.1955)
The standout of the auction Enwonwu’s, Christine (1971), sold for £1,095,000, making it the artist’s second most expensive work, after Tutu (1974) that sold for £1.2 million at Bonhams in 2018. The portrait, Christine, was painted in 1971, the same year that Enwonwu was appointed the first professor of Fine Art at the University of Ife. The sitter, Christine Davis, was born in New York, the step-daughter of a renowned Ghanaian lawyer. In her early twenties, she moved back to Ghana to reside with her stepfather before relocating to Lagos, Nigeria in 1969. In Lagos, Christine and her husband Elvis developed a close friendship with the artist. Commissioned as a gift to the sitter, the portrait is a product of the friendship between Ben Enwonwu, Christine and her husband.