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Arts of our culture interrogates economy, new space

By Gregory Austin Nwakunor
10 November 2019   |   3:07 am
The Green Building of Enterprise Development Centre, Lagos Business School was recently draped in arts, as over 50 artists from all parts of the country converged on the facility for a group show of young and emerging artists themed

Hope by Omovo, one of the works on show

The Green Building of Enterprise Development Centre, Lagos Business School was recently draped in arts, as over 50 artists from all parts of the country converged on the facility for a group show of young and emerging artists themed, The Art Of Our Culture, And The Evolution Of Our Artistic Heritage And Its Impact On Economy.

The space, an artistic building, with light coming from different directions, saw artworks scattered all around the premises. Works displayed at the elevated foyer ranged from painting to photography, mixed media, sculpture and textile.

The one-day show saw over 100 artworks on display for enthusiasts and collectors to relish and buy. Exhibitors were drawn from places like Benue, Kwara, Osun, Ogun, Edo and Bauchi states.

Adekunle Gafar, the show’s curator and chief promoter, said the recent development in art world led to the need to empower young artists with such a show as well as interrogate new and emerging art space for Africa.

“I studied the art market in the world these past years, and I realised that a high value has been placed on African art. Initially, African art was not appreciated in the global art market. Over time, based on some the things that have taken place, it is now appreciated. We just decided that we could take advantage of this and sustain the growth at home,” he said. “That’s one of the reasons we decided to do this.”

He continued, “if you look at our indigenous art, it is majorly sculpting, and it is called block art, which is in three-dimensional forms.”

But it took a Pablo Picasso to paint on a flat surface, depicting the solidity of African art — three dimensions on a two-dimension surface with its edges — which is an inspiration from African mask, for critics to begin serious contemplation of African art, Gafar noted.

According to Gafar, “it is high time we appreciated and put a value on our artistic heritage. We all celebrate Picasso today many people don’t know that he got inspired through African art. His style of art, cubism, was discovered when he was given an African mask from Congo.”

A small-seated figurine from the Vili people of what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo was instrumental in the lives of two of the greatest artists of the 20th Century.

Henri Matisse purchased the carved figure in wood, with its large upturned face, long torso, disproportionately short legs and tiny feet and hands, in a curio shop in Paris, in 1906.

The French artist, who liked to fill his studio with exotic trinkets and objets d’art, objects that would then appear in his paintings, paid a pittance for it.

When Matisse showed it to Pablo Picasso at the home of the art patron and avant-garde writer Gertrude Stein, its impact on the young Spaniard was profound, just as it was, though to an arguably lesser extent, on Matisse when the compact but powerful figure had fortuitously caught his eye.

Gafar added, “we have decided to showcase the African arts because we discovered that the focus of the world is on it at the moment. Lots of our artists are not getting value for their creativity, so we need to bring them together in one place from all over the country to link them up with those that want to collect their works.”

Beyond the growing appreciation, he felt the need to introduce a new body of artists, who hitherto, wouldn’t have had a platform to show their works or mount such a podium.

Gafar, who is the chief operating officer of Toonwalk Enterprises, which partnered Enterprise Development Centre (EDC) of the Pan Atlantic University (LBS) for the show, told The Guardian that the high point of the exhibition was the launch of the first commercial art catalogue.

The key purpose of the occasion was to educate and motivate young Nigerians to develop an interest in art investment.

According to him, “we want to educate our people about the opportunities inherent in making money from investing in arts.”

He said, “as far as l know, art catalogues that had been launched in the past at any art exhibition are tied to a particular event. But what we launched is a collection of art works from over 150 artists.”

He said, “the young and upwardly mobile people should invest in arts as a means of securing their future,’’ adding, “the role of insurance is to protect against the risks of theft and fire or any other form of losses that many facess in the course of doing the business of arts. Banks will be involved because arts are instruments used as collateral when you want to borrow money from the financial institutions.”

He noted that the partnership with the Lagos Business School is to create awareness among Nigerians that the collection of arts is a field of investment where people can put their money and secure their future financially.

Gafar’s words: “We want to encourage Nigerians to invest in Art because we know that the Return on Investment (ROI) is unparalleled when compared to other fields of investments. We have seen people who collected art works for about N10, 000 to sell after about 10 years for about N60million. In which other investments can you make such a huge gain in the same period of time?’’

Prince Yemisi Shyllon, who is ranked among the first 100 private art collectors in the world and number one in Africa, said, “the art of our culture is dependent on how far we go with it. When we talk about the value of arts and culture to society, we always start with its intrinsic value. We can use the social media to promote our culture and we must embrace it. We must start with our kids and let them know there is nothing devilish about our culture. We must pass this culture to them and our culture must not die.”

Some of the artists who exhibited include, Ayoola Omovo, Oladunni Moshood, Ademola Ojo, Theogben Mike, Onyinye Zainia, Anayo Achike, Fola Damian and others.

According to Omovo, the show was an opportunity for her to interrogate society. “My work talks more about society and my environment.”

In Monalisa, Achike Anayo looks at humanity. “I see her as a source for which we spring that’s why all around her; you see braches of where we all spring. We should relate to one another as if we are from one source and we are going to return to that source. The issue around us today occupies my mind — kidnapping and ritual — and so, according to the theme of the project where we are supposed to relate with one other in unity and love but the reverse is the case. This is what I have basically in mix match collage.”