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On World Art Day, appreciation, ‘right value’ in focus


A mural titled Haven Is Elsewhere by Kamruzzaman Shadhin, on display at Alserkal Avenue, Dubai

Though it has not been celebrated with any event in Nigeria, the 2019 World Art Day, held on April 15, afforded some artists opportunity to reflect on quite a number of issues. Among such is the value that artists and galleries get for their effort. Also, the state of art appreciation in Nigeria came into focus.

First held in 2012, the World Art Day was conceptualised at the 17th General Assembly of the International Association of Art (IAA) in Guadalajara, Mexico. April 15 was chosen as an honour to one of the greatest artists that ever lived, Leonardo da Vinci, who was born on that day.

Many have said that without appreciation of art, the energy that drives creativity suffers. Thus, as much as art appreciation, in most parts of the world, is not always within the popular culture context, artists would always push and hope for wider patronage.

Between critical and commercial value of art appreciation, the Nigerian art environment leans more towards the latter.

However, quite a number of fora, particularly in Lagos, over the decades, have dedicated time to the issue of low art appreciation. Also, quite some volumes have been written on the subject as well.

On the occasion of World Art Day, another window provided an assessment of the current situation of value and appreciation.

The Guild of Professional Fine Artists of Nigeria (GFA), based in Lagos, did not organise any event to celebrate the day, but its president, Sam Ebohon, sent a word. “GFA recognises the world art day and thus celebrate and congratulate all creatives around the world,” stated Ebohon, the guild’s fourth president. “Art is a thing of beauty which makes an artist a voice that cannot be ignored if our world must remain habitable. Happy world art day.”

Speaking on the state of art appreciation in Nigeria, Ebohon noted that art has not done too badly in the country. “Art has made big strides in recent years, rapidly creating new opportunities not only for the artists but also for its obvious adjuncts.”

Ebohon, however, traced the growth to what he described as the “increased level of sophistication our art has gained professionally.”

Still on art appreciation, how much efforts have artists been making, especially in working with promoters to expand art appreciation? “I believe artists are open to working with art promoters and galleries with the intent of promoting their works and Nigerian art in general.” Perhaps being seen as working together is not enough, Ebohon noted and asked: “The question is: are they committed to the same ideal?”

The value, in this context includes artists getting the right measure for their efforts. Chairman, Society of Nigerian Artists (SNA), Lagos State, Idowu Sonaiya, while wishing artists, art lovers, writers, collectors and investors a happy World Art Day, noted the challenge in the area of right value. “Only very few,” he said, get the right value. “We still have a lot to do in that regard.”

If artists have not been getting the right value for their efforts, perhaps the art galleries do.

“The galleries are a very important part of the Nigerian art ecosystem and the investment in that sector is truly paying off especially if we look at the kind of attention that Nigerian art has been getting in recent years,” founder and director of Thought Pyramid Art Centre, Jeff Ajueshi said.

“When one looks at it from this perspective, it is something exhilarating. But in terms of financial gains, the values are relatively marginal.”

He explained that the right value comes over time, “the value of investments in a sector like the arts takes some patience.”

The most pronounced outlet in raising the value of Nigerian art, in the last 10 years is the secondary market. The auction houses, all based in Lagos, aren’t given up yet. They must be getting the right value for their efforts.

“It’s a very long term project and I do believe there are many more collectors today than there were before,” said Kavita Chellaram, CEO of Arthouse Contemporary Limited. “Further, I feel the appreciation of art has grown, which in time, will develop more collectors.”

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