Friday, 25 May 2018

Holder of Wewe's 'stolen' painting known, maintains silence

- Arthouse deletes controversial painting from auction lots


Picture of Tola Wewe's 'stolen' painting titled 'Ite Bowabo'.

Over one month after a missing Tola Wewe painting was discovered in Lagos, the alleged collector was yet to respond to how he got possession of the controversial 1989 work titled 'Iye Bowabo'.

The collector (names withheld for legal reason) who has been described as a prominent art patron and ex-husband to one of the former ministers
under the last Federal Government, did not respond to emails and hand-delivery letters sent to him. While e-mail from a journalist sent to the collector immediately after the news of the discovery broke did not get any response till date, Wewe also claimed that letter delivered to the holder's office by the his lawyer hasn't received any reply.

Last month, Wewe told select guests in Lagos that the store in which about 100 works, including 'Iye Bowabo'  were kept was looted then in 1989. Before the alleged looting, Wewe, Moyo Okediji, Kunle Filani, Tunde Nasir and Bolaji Campbell - all founding members of 'Ona' - had a group art exhibition at University of Ibadan, Oyo State to mark the arrival of the movement. After the exhibition, the works of the Ona artists , according to Wewe, were kept inside Okediji's apartment in Ile-Ife.

 RELATED ARTICLE: HOW LAGOS AUCTION HOUSE EXPOSED 'STOLEN' 29-YR-OLD TOLA WEWE PAINTING

From all indications, Arthouse, the auctioneer that exposed the work last month is not going ahead to sell it at its auction on Monday, June 4, 2018. The controversial painting is not on the list of 105 lots published in Arthouse's digital catalogue for the auction.
 And that the identity of the collector is  known to Wewe - in names, contact telephones and e-mail - appears to have left the auction house out of the crisis.

However, the complexity of the case lies in the fact that it has not been established that the collector got any of the letters sent to him. Yesterday evening, Wewe said: the collector "is yet to respond to the letter sent to him by my lawyer".  But if the collector were actually bed-ridden as a source said, it could turn out that he was unaware that the painting he consigned for auction had a stolen provenance on it. More complex, his response after Arthouse informed him of the 'stolen' status of the painting is still unclear.

"My lawyer sent one (letter) to his email address and a hard copy to his office", Wewe said. "She (lawyer)  couldn't locate his house".

It is not uncommon for collectors to fall victims of buying stolen pieces of art. Collectors are even more vulnerable if such stolen art piece was not made public after it was declared  missing.
  For the Wewe's painting in question, a silence of the alleged collector is not golden. And the further the delay in his response, the more damage occurs.

However, the artist would not give up. "We have decided to do a reminder". But If the situation remains the same, he has another step to take. "I will be forced to take serious action", Wewe issued a warning.

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