Recent emergence of third tier art market for  Nigeria’s visual art has necessitated  the existence of a reliable business enlightenment platform for business entrepreneurs who may want to invest their money in the new market.

And this  platform of specialized art marketing and brokage is what Lagos based Art Exchange  Limited stands to  provide. In this interview with  Art on Sunday, Abimbola  Phillips, Coordinator of Art Exchange Limited spoke on the wide range of  services that her commission provides to help position Nigeria’s visual  in the competitive global visual art market economy. She spoke to McPhilips Nwachukwu.

By the way, who is Abimbola Phillips and what is your background?

I am the Coordinator for the Art Exchange Ltd. Having studied Fine Art, and the History of European art and architecture at school, I continued my interest in the Arts by attending Parsons School of design in New York City.

*Ms. Abimbola Phillips standing next to a Ben Enwonwu painting, dated 1991

A necessary and important part of both curricula were numerous visits to museums and galleries, where I continued to develop my “eye” and appreciation of art, and art history.

My love and appetite for art &design was honed at home by my surroundings, and as such has been with me from a very young age.

Art Exchange sounds like some kind  of finance related institution. What is the business of your outfit?

The Art Exchange is a company that has been established to increase the level of awareness of Nigerian art locally, and internationally. It will act as a reference point for in-depth knowledge of the Nigerian art market.

Our primary aim is to seek, identify and document works from our Contemporary and Modern class of Nigerian artists, bring them into known existence, and by so doing bring due recognition to the artists. These works will be compiled into a database on our website.

Art Exchange will create an environment in which these works will be regarded as financial assets and not just merely aesthetic pieces. Art collectors will be able to place values on qualifying items in their collections, thereby adding to their net worth.Listed Artworks will then transform into an asset class that can be handed over from one generation to the next.

What gave birth to the formation?

Art collecting by Nigerians is becoming increasingly popular. Today there is a huge collection of prized and rare Nigerian artworks in various private collections. In Nigeria, unlike other parts of the developed economies, artworks have not risen to the realm of being regarded as financial assets.

The Art Exchange project was conceived by close collaboration between a few long time art collectors and myself, notable of which is Mr. Robert Mbonu, the promoter and founder of the company. With a collection of over 200 works of art from various artists, and a background in finance spanning over 20 years, his vision is to transform Nigerian art pieces into leverage able financial assets.

In essence this means establishing a distinct portfolio of rare and prized Nigerian art pieces that will be regarded as not just mere decorative items but real investments. This special body of works will make up the Art Exchange index.

The criteria for selection of the qualifying artists and works was the careful decision following over several deliberations by an advisory board comprised of the following distinguished art experts – Mr. RahmanAkar, Mr. Jess Castellote, Mr. Oliver Enwonwu, and Mr. OlasehindeOdimayo. The AE index will soon be made public and announced…

In the country’s emerging art market, how can the activities of art exchange help the fortunes of both the artists and their collectors? Through the efforts of the AE, art collectors will be able to place values on qualifying items in their collections, thereby adding to their net worth. Listed artworks will transform into an asset class that can be handed over from one generation to the next.

By presenting these works of art on a database, we are introducing them to a wider audience,and hope to bring greater recognition to the artists. Art has an increasingly global audience of owners – collectors & institutions.

The Art Exchange database proposes to be a destination for learning, reflection and inspiration for keen art collectors, gallery owners, dealers and others who have a passion for the arts.

Recently, art exchange took up the financing of Nigeria’s Virtual Gallery of Contemporary art. How does that undertaking conform to ideals of your organisation?

The sponsorship of the Virtual Museum of Modern Nigerian Art is very apt as the primary aim of both organisations is to create awareness for Nigerian art locally and internationally.

Can you put to figure, how much it takes from your purse to kick-start the pioneer effort?


What is your sincere assessment of the nation’s growing art market? Don’t you think that  it may go through a cataclysmic circle?

I think it is a great achievement that Nigeria’s growing art market has now been stimulated. The last 20-25 years has witnessed an increase in the number of keen avid art enthusiasts and collectors, and more recently auctions – all pointers to an exclusive burgeoning commercial art market.

Opportunities still exist to buy art in Nigeria at the right price, and the shortage of older goods is thrusting newer work into the limelight. As such I foresee a more robust global market developing for Nigerian art.

Investors in art must be disciplined, and knowledgeable if they want to diversify their portfolios. Art purchases can be investments that can pay off, when done right. But the golden rule is to always buy what you like.

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