The Ben Enwonwu Foundation (BEF) was established in 2003 in honour of celebrated Nigerian artist, Professor Benedict Chukwukadibia Enwonwu MBE, NNOM (1917-94). Enwonwu was the first Nigerian artist to gain international acclaim and first professor of art in Nigeria. He was the first Nigerian artist to be conferred Member of the distinguished order of the British Empire and first African artist to be commissioned to sculpt Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. The first federal art adviser, Ben Enwonwu ranks among the greatest artists in the world.The Foundation aims to sustain and build on his life and works through which he forged a philosophical basis for contemporary Nigerian art by fusing Western techniques and indigenous traditions. Enwonwu is widely acclaimed as Africa’s pioneer modernist artist, his success increasing the visibility and appreciation of modern art in Africa.
In 2004, the Foundation started its distinguished lecture series, which has become a major gathering for the rich diversity of contemporary Nigerian society. It offers an opportunity for national and international leaders, renowned academics and policy makers to share their understanding and perspectives on the role of art in causing desirable societal changes while contributing to nation building and economic empowerment.
Through scholarships and grants, The Ben Enwonwu Foundation supports research, exhibitions and publications that foster innovative and scholarly artistic expression. Currently, the scholarship scheme benefits students of Yaba College of Technology, Ahmadu Bello University, Obafemi Awolowo University and the University of Lagos.
In furtherance of its objectives, the Foundation opened an art centre in the artist's home to promote research into his practice. The centre's year-round educational programme explores Enwonwu’s art practice, the cultural and social context of his work and links to contemporary themes. The centre also houses the Omenka Gallery, which represents a select number of African and international artists while examining in an experimental and research-minded way, contemporary art developments and discourses in Nigeria.
Currently, the Foundation is embarking on several projects, which include publishing Enwonwu's autobiography, lectures and writings on contemporary African art in volumes.