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How World Art Day 2020 brought ResiliArt

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Eight years after the World Art Day was conceptualised and launched at the 17th General Assembly of the International Association of Art (IAA) in Guadalajara, Mexico, a global lift has been given to the sparsely celebrated event.

First held in 2012, the World Art Day is celebrated every April 15, a period chosen in honour of one of the greatest artists ever lived, Leonardo da Vinci, born same day. However, the event did not get formal attention of UNESCO until last year. At the 40th session of UNESCO’s General Conference, 2019, World Art Day, was recognised and proclaimed as “a celebration to promote the development, diffusion and enjoyment of art.”

And for the first time, UNESCO got involved with the 2020 celebration. From 2 to 4pm on Wednesday, April 15, UNESCO launched a virtual event themed, ResiliArt, which featured debate over the challenges faced by artists. Audrey Azoulay, UNESCO Director-General who launched ResiliArt stated: “Our Organisation would thus like to pay tribute to the solidarity shown by artists and institutions at a time when art is suffering the full force of the effects of a global health, economic and social crisis.”

The ResiliArt forum, according to UNESCO, raises awareness about the far-reaching ramification of COVID-19 across the sector and aims at supporting artists during the crisis. The inaugural debate, organised in partnership with International Confederation of Societies of Authors and Composers (CISAC), opened by Azoulay, however expanded its scope to include other professionals in the culture sectors from across the world. The debate featured Ernesto Ottone, (UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Culture); Jean Michel Jarre, (Composer, performer, CISAC President and UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador); Yasmina Khadra, (Author); Deeyah Khan, (Musician, documentary film director and UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador); Angélique Kidjo, (Singer-songwriter; CISAC Vice-President and UNICEF International Ambassador), Nina Obuljen-Korzinek, (Minister of Culture of Croatia; and Luis Puenzo, Film director, screenwriter, producer and President of INCAA.

For artists in Nigeria, particularly Lagos the country’s art hub, there was no space to celebrate World Art Day 2020 as the city had an extended lockdown given by government to curtail the spread of COVID-19. Perhaps, the day provided an opportunity to reflect on art in global economics and social relevance, even in a period of challenges brought by COVID-19.

“As the world retracts socially and economically due to the rampaging coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, one may want to make the assertion that artists and the creative industry will most likely be hit hardest as social networking and general human interactions grind to a halt,” said Sam Ebohon, President, Guild of Professional Fine Artists of Nigeria (GFA). “This may not be so, fine art being an industry which is dependent not on many scientific assumptions but actually thrives on the emotional and spiritual dispositions either of the artist or that of the art enthusiasts and collectors.”

Ebohon agreed that collection, in commercial context, would drop “drastically” as global economy surrenders to the ongoing crisis. He, however, argued, “art appreciation would remain the same.”

The occasion of the World Art Day 2020, he added, should inspire artists to diffuse the covid-19 effect on creativity and get more busy producing works.

“Many artists will use opportunity created by the lockdown to go deeper and make more works which even though cannot be shown in exhibitions will find their audience in social media through internet access, which so far is not affected by the virus.”

In launching ResiliArt, UNESCO urged culture professionals to join the movement and replicate the platform in their respective regions with thematic focus. In Nigeria, Ebohon explained that art, as a veritable source of socialisation will not be the same again. “There is a value chain attached to the eventual sale of any artwork,” of which he said would be dislocated.

“For instance, galleries, printmaking industries, framers and auction houses, among others, will be drastically affected and job losses come with it.”

Whatever happens, the resilience of art, as proclaimed in the ResiliArt theme, he assured, will triumph at the end of the tunnel. “I can bet that the art and the creative industry as a whole will be the first to recover from the downturn caused by Covid-19 as people will seek to quickly forget the sadness and depression of the past and lean on to the therapeutic effects of art.”UNESCO noted that each year of World Art Day celebration helps to strengthen “the links between artistic creations and society.”

The spirit of the celebration, said the world body, encourages greater awareness of the diversity of artistic expressions and highlights the contribution of artists to sustainable development. Excerpts from UNESCO’s recognition of World Art Day: “There is much to learn, share and celebrate on World Art Day, and UNESCO encourages everyone to join in through various activities such as debates, conferences, workshops, cultural events and presentations or exhibitions.”


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