Lessons from Ben Enwonwu’s ‘Tutu’: How to Increase the Value of Your Artwork

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Recently, Tutu, the painting of Nigerian painter and sculptor (late) Ben Enwonwu, was sold for a record £1, 205,000 in a Bonhams auction in London. The auction took place simultaneously via live broadcast in Lagos. The artwork sold for four times its projected price to the shock of most observers. The painting is of an Ile-Ife princess, Adetutu Ademiluyi (Tutu). The artwork was found recently in an apartment in London after being lost for a while.

Perhaps you need the figure converted to naira for you to understand the value that the anonymous buyer has attached to this Nigerian art. It sold for a whooping N508, 358, 301. As an artist, you begin to wonder how you can increase the worth of your art.

It is a widely known truth that the death of a creator often drives up the value of their artwork, but this does not mean that you cannot increase the value of your art and make juicy sums from it while you are still alive. We share tips on how to drive up the price of your artwork.

Paint brush and paint

1.      Create very limited copies

The more the copies of your artwork that are out there, whether sculptures, paintings or photographs, the less the value of each individual work. This is why artworks that earn the most are artworks with very limited editions. Create scarcity, make very few copies, if possible, just one.

2.      Mount or frame it nicely

Mounting your art prints on unique materials like aluminium increases the value of the work as a result of the improved look. Framing your artwork with quality frames also boosts the value of your artwork and in fact, improves the look on the walls of galleries, and anywhere it is displayed.

3.      Make it bigger

The bigger your artwork, the higher the monetary value. This is not always true, but more often than not, bigger artworks fetch bigger money. As a photographer, you should note this and ensure you shoot high-resolution images that would come out well in large print. Note that collectors may not be eager to acquire large works, so you would have to look to organisations with a lot of wall space, like banks, for patronage.

4.      Build your brand

One sure way to drive up the value of your work in Nigeria, as in every other place, is to build your brand. Let everyone know you for the quality of your work. It is impossible to detach the name of an artist from the value of her work. Sometimes, your name alone is enough to push up the value of a work incredibly.

5.      Explain it and make it socially relevant

Sometimes, it is important to create a background for your work. Your explanation of the idea behind the work can make it more relevant to certain audiences and throw more light on the work. This explanation will certainly affect the monetary value. A story will make the work easier to relate with. What did you think when you started work on it? How did you go about it? What materials did you use? The accompanying text distinguishes it from just any art and often places it in a social context.

6.      Title and date it

Do not make the mistake of not titling your work. Every work should have a name by which it is identified, and this name is a part of the artwork that will accompany it forever. Do not name it Untitled either. Naming it gives it an identity and makes it valuable. A date also puts a timeline to your work and often, the older the work of an artist, especially popular ones, the higher the value is.

The value of Nigerian art is increasing in the international art market, but you cannot always predict the buying behaviour of those who buy art pieces. However, taking some of the steps listed above will help you improve the worth of your art.

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