Art As An Alternative Investment: The Place Of National Commission For Museum and Monuments
Museums and Art Collection
Art collection is the systematic accumulation of works of art by private individuals and public institutions such as museums. We should note that historically a close connection exists between private and public collections.
Museums in Nigeria
Most of the objects that form part of the collections in our Museums in Nigeria predate the establishment of Museums. These objectives were an integral part of the traditional, social, political and economic systems and so were functional and highly treasured by those who owned or kept them. They were owned communally or individually and were in the holdings of traditional rulers, chiefs, titled men, priests, cults and social groups individuals.
The use and thereby influence of some objects which were efficacious as symbols of power and authority went beyond their place of origin. Such was the case of the ‘Ofo’ of the Eze Nri system and the Arochukwu long juju in Igboland. Again, some of these objects were focal points for the celebration of ceremonies and in some cases annual festivals such as the fertility figures of the Afo people in the Plateau area of Nigeria. All these led to much coming and going and therefore much interaction in a bid to consult the spirit abiding in the object so as to gain cure and blessings from their spiritual forces.
The museum in Nigeria as in most parts of Africa is a colonial creation. By the beginning of the colonial period in the 19th century, the museum movement in Europe and America had carved out for itself a befitting place as a renowned institution holding and exhibiting objects in such spheres of knowledge as Arts, Natural History, Geology, Anthropology, Mineralogy, and so on. As exotic cultural items were brought in from the colonial territories, European museums became more interesting and attractive, especially to the scholarly class. Therefore, museums were recognized as an essential aspect of western civilization that needed to be transferred to Africa as part of the civilizing mission.
In Nigeria, attempts were begun as early as the late 1930s by some British officers, namely, Messrs. K.C. Murray, E.H. Duckworth and A. Huntcook and others to establish Museums. This was borne out of the need to preserve cultural items in the country against the threat of destruction by the new Christian converts who had no need for them any longer and that of exportation by unscrupulous art dealers. At that stage, the museum they conceived as to be rural, functional and responsive to its immediate environment. But as a result of the difficulties encountered by exponents of museums during the preliminary period, the museums that were finally established were urban-centred and therefore addressed themselves more to the elites and tourists. They were also addressed mainly to the fields of Archaeology and Ethnography. Archaeology was added as a result of many accidental finds that were discovered in different parts of the country, which produce a lot of objects. Thus, on July 28, 1943, the museum came into being with the inauguration of the Antiquities service, where the management of museums was placed.
Today, museum involvement in Nigeria has increased in scope and type. Apart from Antiquities and Ethnography, museums in Nigeria are now involved in other areas such as Natural History, Warfare, Colonial History and Modern Art. The Antiquities services have therefore been expanded and given more responsibilities under the name, National Commission for Museums and Monuments. The commission controls over 34 museums. Some of these museums are specialized ones such as the National War Museum, Umuahia and the Colonial History Museum, Aba in the eastern part of the country and the Colonial History Museum Lokoja. It also caters for over 67 scheduled monuments found all over the country.
Apart from the museums run by the National Commission for Museums and Monuments, the federal government of Nigeria established two other museums at the National Art Theatre after the Festival of Black and African Arts and Culture (FESTAC) of 1977.
These are the museums of the centre for Black African Civilisation and the Museum of Modern Art. The former houses mainly the materials from different parts of Africa and beyond which were assembled during the FESTAC and conduct research on African Culture. There are also museums run by other bodies like institutions of learning, State governments, individuals and corporate organisations.
The museums run under the National Commission for Museums and Monuments have a wide range of collections and the guiding spirit of their service is to principally create cultural awareness and infuse the idea of unity into the people. But also, part of the functions of the National Commission for Museums and Monuments is the collection and exhibition of modern art, offering of advice and permission for operating private collections/museums and giving permits for archaeological excavation and for the exportation out of Nigeria works of art that are not considered antiquities.
For this latter reason, the commission offers exhibition advice and space on its premises to contemporary artists to exhibit their works. Such exhibitions are given the widest possible publicity through the Commission’s mailing lists and other prints and electronic media. The aim is to attract as many clienteles as possible to come and enjoy the displayed Artworks and purchase those that appeal to the visitors according to their taste. It is in this respect that the Commission’s work relates to art as an investment because not only do we create the enabling environment for artists to display their works for sale but the museum also has the statutory authority to give permits for the export of such purchases.