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Enwonwu Painting Found in Family Home After 40 Years Sells for $1.4 Million

Plus, one of the largest private collections of African quilts finds a home, and the Louvre has secured its loan for Leonardo da Vinci’s “Vitruvian Man.”

Ben Enwonwu, “Christine” (1971) (courtesy Sotheby’s)

The painting “Christine” (1971) by Ben Enwonwu, one of Nigeria’s most influential modernist artists, sold for nearly eight times its estimated price at a Sotheby’s London this week. Incredibly, the painting hung in the home of the family of its subject, a hairstylist named Christine Elizabeth Davis, for over 40 years before they realized it had been painted by Enwonwu. It sold at the Modern and Contemporary African Art sale for £1,095,000 (~$1,411,329), while the full auction ended with a total receipt of £4,002,750 (~$5,159,084) in lots sold.

The Louvre will take on Leonardo da Vinci’s famous “Vitruvian Man” (ca. 1490) drawing after a contentious two-year legal battle. An Italian court reversed a lower court’s ruling this week, which will allow the drawing to travel from Venice’s Gallerie dell’Accademia to Paris, where it will go on view as part of the Louvre’s major retrospective in time for the 500-year anniversary of the artist’s death.

Sotheby’s Picasso Online sale raked in a total of £860,000 (~$1,107,925) and featured prints from the collection of Marina Picasso, granddaughter of the famous Pablo Picasso. The top lot of the bunch was the terre de faïence vase “Chouette (A. R. 602)” (1969).

Sotheby’s Sculptural Fantasy sale of American folk art from the collection of Stephen and Petra Levin sold a total of $1,989,812 between its 240 lots.

Sotheby’s Hong Kong’s Contemporary Art Online sale topped out a total of 7,615,625 HKD (~$970,854). Its top lot was a fiber-reinforced plastic piece by KAWS titled “生於1974年” (2007) and inscribed with the words “Medicom Toy.”

Rosie Lee Tompkins, “Untitled” (1996); quilted by Irene Bankhead (1996)., cotton, cotton flannel, cotton feed sack, linen, rayon, flocked satin, velvet, cotton-synthetic blend, cotton-acrylic jersey, acrylic double-weave, cotton-polyester, polyester doubleknit, acrylic and cotton tapestry, silk batik, polyester velour, rayon or acrylic embroidery on cotton, wool, needlepoint, shisha-mirror embroidery; 88 x 146 in. (photo by Sharon Risedorph; image courtesy BAMPFA)

The UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (aka BAMPFA) announced this week that it had acquired a massive bequest of almost three thousand quilts by African American artists — probably the largest private collection of the pieces, ever. The gift comes from Eli Leon, who the New York Times described a “self-taught scholar” of the form in his 2018 obituary. The collection includes especially exciting highlights from Rosie Lee Tompkins, a friend of Leon’s mentioned in the first paragraph of that same obit (just as he is mentioned in hers). More than 500 examples of Tompkins’ works are represented in the collection, and many will go on view as part of an upcoming BAMPFA retrospective.

The University of Arizona’s Center for Creative Photography announced this week that it had acquired the archive of Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer David Hume Kennerly. The collection spans 50 years of the photographer’s impactful photojurnalism, in addition to “personal correspondence and mementos such as the helmet and cameras that Kennerly used while photographing the Vietnam War,” according to a press release.

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