A rare and historically significant composition by Nigerian Modernist, Ben Enwonwu, features as the top lot at Bonhams Africa Now – Modern & Contemporary African Art Sale slated for October 5, 2017. The painting, Nigerian Symphony, 1963-34, 48 x 178cm is estimated at £100,000-150,000 and depicts a busy street scene, swarming with Nigerians cutting across all social strata. Hovering above these men and women sporting traditional attires and business suits are dark, sullen rain clouds. Yet, in the midst of this gloominess, a viewer discerns a hint of optimism and euphoria in the crowd scene. It’s not difficult to figure out why. Nigeria had just gained its political independence in 1960. Self-rule still shimmers with promise. Hence, the people in the painting seem united in their expectations of a harmonious republic.
Giles Peppiatt, Director of African Art at Bonhams, describes it as a “powerful and exuberant celebration of the Nigerian people’s strength and resilience by the country’s most beloved artist”. He also enthused: “Painted at a pivotal moment in the country’s history, I anticipate the work will be of great interest to collectors both in Africa and further afield.”