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Stakeholders see bright future for Nigerian art

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This undated handout picture released by Sotheby’s auction house in London on October 15, 2019, shows a painting entitle “Christine” by Nigerian artist Ben Enwonwu, that sold for £1.1 million (1.3 million euros, $1.4 million), after being originally valued at £100,000-150,000. – A painting by the Nigerian artist responsible for the “African Mona Lisa” sold at auction in London on October 15, 2019, for £1.1 million after the family who owned it googled the signature and realised its importance. The painting fetched over seven times the pre-auction estimate, finally going under the hammer for £1.1 million (1.3 million euros, $1.4 million). “Christine”, by 20th century master of African modernism Ben Enwonwu, had been in the sitter’s family home ever since it was painted in Lagos in 1971. (Photo by Handout / SOTHEBY’S / AFP)

An art collection can signal culture, good taste, wealth and connections, but how well has the Nigerian art been doing in the last couples of years and how acceptable is the Nigerian sculpture, globally?

Nigeria Art Market, new directions in lending, investment and wealth management were the focus of the discussion by stakeholders at the second edition of Point of View, an event organised by Ben Enwonwu Foundation (BEF) in collaboration with the Society of Nigerian Artists (SNA).

Supported by Alliance Française Lagos/Mike Adenuga Centre, with the theme, ‘Raising Capital Against High Value Works of Art’ brought together a diverse line-up of artists, curators, writers,, wealth managers and policy makers.

BEF was established in honour of Africa’s foremost artist, Ben Enwonwu, who died in 1994.

The focus of the monthly series talks by the foundation, seeks to encourage the growing recognition of Nigerian art as a new alternative asset class while providing a deeper understanding of the appraising of art holdings for liquidation, and of using art as collateral for lending transactions such as financing business expansions and investments or high-end purchases.

With the 1971 Ben Enwonwu’s painting surpassed its pre-sale high estimate of $192,000 (N 69 million) when it sold for $1.4 million (N 506 million), expert and speakers believed that the future is bright for the Nigerian art market.

The highpoint of the event was the panel discussion with the theme, Risks and Regulatory Frameworks’. The panel comprised of: Ephraim Ajibola, who represented Prof. Koyinsola Ajayi, SAN, Managing Partner, Olaniwun Ajayi LP; Prince Yemisi Adedoyin Shyllon, Founder, Yemisi Adedoyin Shyllon Foundation (OYASAF); Kavita Chellaram, Chief Executive Officer, Arthouse Contemporary Limited; John Opubor, Managing Partner, Coronation Capital; and Dapo Adeniyi, who moderated the panel.

Shyllon who spoke with The Guardian described the foundation’s initiative as timely. This is a great foundation; it tries to build upon what the great Ben Enwonwu has done. It’s like the Fela family, but the son of Ben Enwonwu, Dr Oliver Enwonwu, is solely managing this one, he’s doing a great, and he’s trying to bring in more knowledge into the art market in Nigeria. And he’s bringing stakeholders to come and provide more information and knowledge that will help the market to grow. So the foundation is doing a very commendable job

Data is not very much available in terms of the liquidity of art as a piece of investment, the problem of ensuring that there is promptness in disposing of art pieces in the market.

On the role of art auction, he said, “the first Chike Nwabogwu as the Muson Centre which I attended with other collectors at that time, and followed Art House, which started in 2008, and others. it’s a very important market because it provides a spontaneity gives also a lot of data which is not available about secondary art market, and it has also given a lot of spotlights, visibility to art as a very viable investment asset. So it’s a very commendable effort by these great auction houses and people that have done a lot to promote the Nigerian art.

On his part, Executive Director of Ben Enwonwu Foundation and the President of SNA, said, “The foundation was established to preserve the legacy of Ben Enwonwu and his contributions to art in Nigeria. And through lectures, debates and conferences like Point of View, we carry out our mission. Point of View today is about the role of art shaping society positively. You know, because a lot of people think that art is purely decorative or doesn’t have aesthetic functions, but art also is an investment. A lot of people think art is purely decorative, but art is for investment. Just the other day, Christine got over $1 million, you know, we have to start having the structures. If this these works can get these sorts of values on the international market and even the local market. I think that the story has to be different.

We must be able to take this work also to banks, we should be able to get collateral for art pieces.

“I think once we start getting the sort of value for Nigeria art, the collectors start seeing investment value for their works, they will be more encouraged to invest more, banks will start giving collateral based on loans of people’s collections, which you can use for your private on business purposes. And also we find a situation where even the artists begin to thrive to even achieve better in their works.


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