‘Oliver Enwonwu: A Continued Legacy’ exhibition to showcase father-son artistic dialogue

London’s Mall Galleries will host a unique exhibition, “Oliver Enwonwu: A Continued Legacy,” showcasing a dialogue between two generations of artistic excellence in May. The exhibition, presented by OM234, features the works of Oliver Enwonwu alongside those of his father, the celebrated Professor Ben Enwonwu, MBE, NNOM (1917-1994). 

Coinciding with the 30th anniversary of Ben Enwonwu’s passing, the exhibition explores the shared depiction of femininity as a symbol of indigenous aesthetics and primordial feminine power. Oliver Enwonwu’s new paintings challenge colonial gaze and celebrate indigenous African power. 

The exhibition will feature paintings, drawings and sculpture, highlighting the meeting point of tradition and modernity while emphasising the relevance of indigenous African identities in the contemporary world. 

Oliver Enwonwu, a third-generation artist, comes from a lineage of esteemed artists. His grandfather was a renowned traditional sculptor and his father, Professor Ben Enwonwu, MBE, is celebrated as Africa’s pioneer modernist artist. With nearly 20 years of experience, Enwonwu is a prominent figure in Nigeria’s arts and culture sector. He specialises in art advisory, programme management, strategy and development, empowering creatives and optimising business opportunities.

Oliver Enwonwu/Oliver Enwonwu Sudio

A curator, art administrator, author, publisher and brand strategist, he holds degrees in biochemistry, exploration geophysics,l and visual arts. He’s currently pursuing a PhD in African art history. Enwonwu is the founder of The Ben Enwonwu Foundation and CEO of Revilo Company Ltd., publishers of Omenka magazine. He served as president of the Society of Nigerian Artists from 2009 to July 2021, establishing the Society’s College of Fellows and Hall of Fame.

Ben Enwonwu MBE, NNOM (1917–1994) is celebrated as Africa’s greatest artist of the 20th Century. He attended Goldsmiths College and the Slade School of Art, London, graduating with first-class honours in sculpture. Enwonwu fused Western techniques with indigenous traditions, forging a philosophical basis for contemporary Nigerian art.

He was the first Nigerian artist to gain international recognition, breaking racial barriers by exhibiting in Europe and the United States. Enwonwu supported Black Nationalist struggles and was elected fellow of the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland in 1948.

In 1954, he became a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) and in 1956, he was the first African commissioned to sculpt a bronze portrait of Queen Elizabeth II. His major works include Anyanwu at the United Nations headquarters in New York and Sango at the Power Holding Company of Nigeria, Lagos. Enwonwu was appointed Art Advisor to the Nigerian federal government in 1959 and received numerous awards for his contributions to art, including the Nigerian National Merit Award in 1980.

Sponsored by Geregu Power PLC and CSL Capital UK, the exhibition runs from 21 May to 1 June 2024.

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