Lessons from Ben Enwonwu’s Christine Art

Lessons from Ben Enwonwu’s Christine Art

I love art, I love the ambience they give to a living space and some of the untold stories that emanate steadily, endlessly each time you stare at them. I’ve collected a few paintings though, mostly the ones I find attractive on the road side and I’m not done collecting yet.

Ben Enwonwu was perhaps the best we’ve had or perhaps to avoid reactions from many progressives who believe that something better is here or is yet to come I could say he was one of our finest.

The late artist is considered the “Father of African Modernism”.

His 1974 painting of the Ife princess, Adetutu ” Tutu” Ademiluyi was dubbed the “African Mona Lisa” by veteran Writer Ben Okri who won the Booker Prize for literature in 1991.The painting of the young Ife Princess after having disappeared for close to four decades, was later found in a London apartment. The artwork was later sold off at a record-breaking USD 1.6 million last year.

COURTESY: SOTHEBY’S Ben Enwonwu’s Christine, 1971.



The ever charming, ever smiling Christine ,the captivating portrait of Christine Elizabeth Davis, an American hair stylist  who was of West Indian descent is the latest to be discovered. Christine had worked in Ghana before moving to Lagos with her Husband who was British in 1969. In one of their travels, they met and befriended Enwonwu and Christine’s husband commissioned the work as a gift for his wife in 1971 before they eventually moved back to the US a few years later. 

Not long ago the painting was valued by Sothebys at around $200,000, but on Tuesday (15th October, 2019) the portrait sold in London for about seven times the estimated price at $1.4 million.

This all began when a family member found an old portrait of their mother  and then googled the signature on the painting. 


There are so many positives to take away from the story of Christine. To me it is a story of self discovery,  a story of a journey from oblivion and near nothingness to the climax of self actualization.

I will try to enumerate some of the eligible lessons from Christine below: 

  • Time has no hold on something of great value.
  • Considering the fact that it was before auctioning valued at around $200,000 but eventually sold for $1.4 million,  value depends on your bargaining power.
  • Value is relative and has got a lot to do with where something is at the moment( it probably wouldn’t be worth a fortune in a local art gallery)
  • Information is a game changer.  They only were able to discover the real value of that piece of art only when someone googled the signature on it. So if  he had not, it would only have been a beautiful piece of art hanging on the wall, standing as a reminder to the wonderful memories they shared together with their mother.

Enwonwu died in 1994 at the age of 77, he was a Nigerian artist ,the very best if you ask me whose career spanned across six decades seeing the journey of Nigeria from a colony of Britain to an independent nation.

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