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Nana Sonoiki: Building The Bridge In Art Appreciation Business

Nana Sonoiki

In the contemporary art management space of Lagos, a quiet renaissance is emerging as a new generation of gallery owners are changing the artistic and economic narratives. Nana Sonoiki, founder of new entrant The Art Pantheon, Lekki, Lagos is one of the new generation gallerists and curators lifting Africa’s art economy. With experience in contemporary art management that dates back from the 1990s, Sonoiki is a bridge between the past and the flexing energies of the 21st century art appreciation business.

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About six months after announcing her entry as an independent professional, Sonoiki, a proven professional in Nigeria’s primary and secondary art market of the last 20 years, formally unveiled The Art Pantheon Gallery as a facility.

Sonoiki’s choice of period and location to take off a new art business are daring, in a Nigerian economy struggling to recover from Covid-19 pandemic crisis. For decades, Ikoyi and Victoria Island have sustained their Lagos art hub status. Lekki is not exactly in that league yet, despite being a choice residential and emerging business district.

Is Sonoiki not taking a lot of risk for a new business in luxury items such as art appreciation?
I trust and integrity of the gallery and artists being promoted. Indeed, working with quite a number of big names in the art economy of Nigeria over the last two decades, and the fragility of selling art that can be trusted by collectors is a conscious path i have gotten used to. Also, the documentation of collection through catalogue for collectors, which is pivotal to our business, helps a lot in building the required trust in selling art.

We have quite an enormous number of words and works that describe art. What captures your description of art?
Art for me is that idea, thoughts, imaginations creatively expressed on or in a medium.

What do you find most fascinating about art?
Its dynamic nature. The way it is interpreted and means different things to different people. Art is life, it is medicine to the soul and body; it is therapeutic.

Nana Sonoiki

So what piqued your interest in art?
Having so much creativity around me opened my box of interest in so many ways, from appreciating to handling, to making money too! I grew up as a child in the same building as late Chief Oloruntoba, a great artist and performer. I will go to his studio after school and during holidays and was always very fascinated by the works he created which now adorn many homes and institutions all around the world today.

You have been described as one of the women shaping visual arts in Nigeria. How has the journey been?
I feel honoured! The journey has been very interesting but challenging, it’s like unboxing gift boxes, some are small and easy to unbox while some are big and complex.

You worked in the commercial art gallery sub-sector under Treasure House & Arthouse Contemporary Ltd for over a decade. And now, you are the proud owner of The Art Pantheon Gallery. What has kept you consistent over the years?
The grace of God has kept me, even when I’m discouraged and feel like quitting, I muster the strength and keep going, the quest for doing things right and properly always striving to achieve excellence!

Also, what has evolved in the Nigerian art scene from when you started until now?
A lot has evolved from appreciation to higher values for Nigerian art, more careers developing in art.

Given the number of stories (positive and negative) emanating from budding artists, would you say that art management in Nigeria is successful? If not, what do you recommend should be changed?
It is not successful yet but a lot of work needs to be done from trust-building and strict adherence and fulfilment of terms of contracts by both parties needs to happen.

A little birdie once described you as an “untapped resource and a good listener.” Now, over to you, If you could describe yourself in five words, what would they be?
Hahaha! Strong, resilient, kind, hardworking and God-fearing!

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