Ben (Benedict Chukwukadibia) Enwonwu, M.B.E (Nigerian, 1917-1994) Seven wooden sculptures commissioned by the Daily Mirror in 1960
Lot 129† W
Ben (Benedict Chukwukadibia) Enwonwu, M.B.E (Nigerian, 1917-1994) Seven wooden sculptures commissioned by the Daily Mirror in 1960
Sold for £361,250 (US$ 607,196) inc. premium
Lot Details
Ben (Benedict Chukwukadibia) Enwonwu, M.B.E (Nigerian, 1917-1994)
Seven wooden sculptures commissioned by the Daily Mirror in 1960 Figure 1:
117 x 72 x 60cm (46 1/16 x 28 3/8 x 25 5/8in).
signed and dated 'B.E. 1961'(to lower back)

Figure 2:
160 x 90 x 40cm (63 x 35 7/16 x 15 3/4in).
signed and dated 'B.E. 1961' (to back of left leg)

Figure 3:
174 x 96 x 45cm (68 1/2 x 37 13/16 x 17 11/16in).
signed and dated 'B.E. 1961' (to left arm)

Figure 4:
227 x 95 x 45cm (89 3/8 x 37 3/8 x 17 11/16in).
signed and dated 'BEN ENWONWU 1961' (to right leg)

Figure 5:
185 x 90 x 45cm (72 13/16 x 35 7/16 x 17 11/16in).
signed and dated 'B.E.61' (to left pocket)

Figure 6:
187 x 32 x 20cm (73 5/8 x 12 5/8 x 7 7/8in).
signed and dated 'BEN ENWONWU 1961' (to right side of newspaper)

Figure 7:
165 x 53 x 35cm (64 15/16 x 20 7/8 x 13 3/4in).
signed and dated 'BEN ENWONWU / 1961' (to stool)

each signed and dated
African hardwood

Footnotes

  • PROVENANCE:
    Commissioned from the artist by the Daily Mirror in 1960
    Mirror Group Newspapers


    On the basis of the success of Enwonwu's Anyanwu, and the artist's growing international profile (catalysed by his recently-completed sculpture of Queen Elizabeth II), in 1960 the Daily Mirror newspaper commissioned the artist to produce a series of sculptures for their extensive new London headquarters in Holborn (to which they moved in 1961).

    For Mirror IPC, it was important that the commission embody and represent its global audience. Enwonwu's sketches for the commission, published here, reveal his exploration of a number of conceptual and formal strategies for a sculptural installation which would both invoke the role and reach of the Daily Mirror and respond to the scale of the office complex, while also extending the artist's aesthetic agenda. All contain a prominently vertical thrust, a fusion of modernity and monumentality, but the design ultimately selected was the one that offered the most humanistic vision: a host of newspaper-bearing figures, which can be arranged in varying constellations to suggest differing dialogues or relationships.

    Each of the seven figures bears a vivid expression, differing posture and unique details. The five standing figures are predominantly sculpted with the attenuated features and stylised bodies of ancient Igbo wood carvings, and the narrowing from torso to base familiar from Anyanwu. Together the group accrues an almost sacred quality, in which the spread pages of the broadsheet in the figures' hands read as hymnbooks, or wings.

    Of the works, the artist stated in a newspaper interview on September 6, 1961: "I have tried to represent the wings of the Daily Mirror, flying news all over the world... The group forms a sort of chorus. It is almost a religious group. All art, I believe, has a religious feeling – a belief in humanity."

    Installed in the forecourt of the Daily Mirror offices, the sculptures drew crowds of visitors, who were able to walk among the individual figures, becoming part of the scene. The works garnered high praise and led to the artist's appearance in a BBC interview.

    Wooden sculpture represents a key component of Enwonwu's artistic legacy, uniting ancient wood carving traditions and contemporary practice. Onyema Offoedu-Okeke remarks that the artist, who used an adz inherited from his father for all his wood sculpture, had a remarkable "facility" with the medium,
    making him one of the most significant international sculptors of his generation.


    BIBLIOGRAPHY:
    O. Offoedu-Okeke, Artists of Nigeria, (Milan, 2012), p.48
    S. Ogbechie, Ben Enwonwu: The Making of an African Modernist, (Rochester, 2008), pp.131-2
    'When News Takes Wings', Daily Mirror, (6 September, 1961), p.3
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