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For the arts, recession is blessing in disguise




Every sphere of the is feeling the pinch of economic hardship as a result of recession. Not least is the visual arts sub-sector of the creative industry. However, a mixed feeling seems to be pervading the sector, as Nigerian arts continue to witness dramatic growth, a rise in art appreciation, and collection by individuals and corporate organisations.

Red Door Gallery’s Bola Ashiru told The Guardian that despite the recession, the price of artworks is likely to go higher because the market is not limited to Nigeria. According to him, “Art is not an everyday commodity; it’s a piece that has a lot of emotional connection. Globally, there is a high demand for Nigerian art. So, I don’t see any artist limiting himself to the Nigerian market. Art is one of the few commodities that can boost the country’s economy, apart from crude oil. Any artist who is looking at the recession and reducing the price of his work is only limiting himself. And if Nigerians are not willing to pay, it is their loss because there are other buyers out there.”

On the best option between renting a space and sharing per centage with artists, the representative said Red Door runs a representative gallery and its model is very different from other galleries, adding, “Our model has been promoting artists’ works both locally and internationally. Most of our clients are not based in Nigeria, which makes it more interesting.


“There were a lot of uncertainties in 2016, considering the fall in the value of naira, but art is a long-term investment. At Red Door, we have a 10-year plan that we are following, and we are continuously looking towards long-term goals.”

Founder of Nike Art Gallery, Mrs. Nike Okundaye, lamented that the price of art materials had gone up and it had become expensive to run a gallery.

Her words, “For us, we cannot stop creating art works. The collectors are scared of investing in art; the artists are suffering a lot with the current situation. In my gallery, we depend solely on generator power supply; we need to power the air conditioners whenever we are open. Artwork is a luxury item for healing; people use art to calm themselves from tension, depression, but today, many people find it hard to feed. All hands must be on deck to get Nigeria out of the economic crisis; we cannot depend on this government alone.”

On his part, an artist and founder of Iwalewa Gallery of Art, Femi Williams, said in terms of art sales, it has been really slow, adding, “For me, I have been able to explore other areas as well, like functional art to make ends meet. I have diverted a little into furniture making in an artistic way. This has helped me to survive the recession. The positive side of the recession is that it has helped me to diversify; I have also taken advantage of the foreign market, where I get paid in foreign currency. Of course, we know the exchange rate is an advantage. Recession to me is a blessing in disguise.”

Another artist, Olu Ajayi, also said the issue of pricing was not relevant considering that art is not a commodity. To him, “It is the question of value. How much value artists place on their work would make the buyers go the extra mile to purchase the work. If art was a mass commodity, we could consider quantity in the pricing.”

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