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POINT OF VIEW: ‘BEF’ reshaping Nigeria visual art

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By Chris Onuoha

The arts industry in Nigeria, visual arts precisely, has begun to attract attention. This is as a result of efforts made by the Ben Enwonwu Foundation (BEF) to recreate the relevance of arts practice in the country.

Nigerian art as a new alternative asset for collateral(Opens in a new browser tab)

That is also, not to say that the industry mainly dominated by private practitioners has not played significant role in Nigeria’s economy. But over time, this sector has thrived in murkiness in comparison to the global art trend.

Art practice generally has been dated back to civilization and Nigeria was equally in the picture back then with some of the country’s cultural heritage, values and historical studies traceable to her traditional art and later the contemporary. However, with the evolving trend and rapidity at which art in the global market flourishes, occupying some measures of patronage in financial and social circle, Nigerian art is yet to get fair share of the reckoning, despite creative works of art done by the masters.

Looking at the trend, the BEF under the watchful eye of its Executive Director, Oliver Enwonwu came up with a talk show programme called “The Point of View” to change the narrative. The forum from inception has attracted influential stakeholders in the Nigerian art sector:  private collectors, gallery owners, government officials and policy makers.

Others include big players in the art market, such as Giles Papiette, President, Bonhams Auction House, London and its African representative Neil Coventry; Prince Yemisi Adebisi Shyllon; Jess Castellote; Kavita Chellaram among others.  The foundation has also continued to bring on board different experts from other fields with interest in art business to chart way forward on how to make Nigerian art relevant in the global market.

From its maiden edition held in September to the present, the monthly talk show has consistently charged up the art sector with varying topics that started with ‘Artists’ resale right.’ It is a reawakening call to the practitioners and stakeholders to come to terms with realities. The forum exposes certain neglects of artist’s right to the sale of his work or at any point of resale, orchestrated by unfavourable government policies or perhaps, non implementation of existing laws. It also charted way forward for healthy and profiting engagement from the studio practice to a global reckoning of Nigeria art, including other options to benefit the artist even after he has long gone.

The second edition tagged “Raising Capital Against High Value Works of Art” discussed how the work of art should be evaluated to merit international market bargain or used as collateral in lending option in financial transactions. The forum 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 liquidity.

With the third edition just concluded, an impressive presentation of futuristic outlook of Nigerian art space, leading architects in the country shared their insights on the most innovative constructions and design trends. Themed: “Museum, Tourism and Urban Development” the experts presented some facts about existing African museum and what it should look like in the modern time to attract both local and foreign tourists and serve as part of urban development.

Seun Oduwole, Principal Architect at SI.SA in his presentation, used The J.K. Randle Center for Yoruba History and culture at Onikan, Lagos as a case study for tourism development and viable destination for marketing. He was able drive home some points, what the center should represent to the art space in the country.

Jumoke Adenowo, Principal Partner, AD Consulting also presented some elements of what an African museum has looked like in the beginning and what it should be looking like now. She engaged the audience with a high spirited voice that elicits such a cultural grandeur depicting her contextual intent. She was so passionate about how Africans should appreciate their pride, heritage and ability to uphold their identity consciously. Using the modern designs as a case, she stressed that museums in the country should reflect African image to serve the purpose for which it is meant for. She earnestly enumerated; remedy, redress, restore, rediscover, redeem, revive and reverberating our renaissance as those elements that will redefine African museum. She claims that Africans don’t appreciate who they are that reflects their values and heritage.  “We will only be able to find solutions when we know the confidence we have,” says Adenowo. Her passionate speech hinged on moving the continents to African Renaissance.

During the panel of discussion session, museum specialists that include Omotayo Adeboye, Tosin Oshinowo joined Seun Oduwole and Jumoke Adenowo who moderated the section that deliberated and shed light on improving museum experiences, preservation and conservation activities. Other matters touched were challenges the museum in the country faces and need for government and people in authorities to highlight investment opportunities for museum development and international business attraction.

Adenowo stressed more on how the country will begin to change mindset in appreciating museums and arts saying this will go a long way to attract others including local tourists. This, Omotoayo Adeboye noted, saying that sensitization drive is very important to change the orientation and perception that museums as seen, belong to senior citizens in the society and not a modern recreation center.

Tosin Oshinowo in her contribution hinted on packaging. By this, she talked about rebranding and making it attractive to lure both local and foreign visitors and patronage. Narrating experiences of how museum in America and Europe are used for leisure and cultural studies, she reiterated need for Nigeria to look towards such packaging to attract tourists who will not only spend their money but also boost our art space rating.

Jumoke also stressed how museums and art spaces has to be dynamic in modernizing the architectural structures and have an evolving legacy as sort of urban development.  She emphasized that the museum spaces was not constructed with the intent of edifying monument for social consumption but should be recreated to serve that purpose in this modern time.

On the sideline, Oliver Enwonwu, Executive Director, Ben Enwonwu Foundation while talking to Vanguard, mentioned how the forum has impacted the art sector.

“We are particularly happy because we have been able to highlight how our art has strived to shape the society positively. We have brought on board, broad spectrum of speakers from different sectors, professionals and also government officials and policy makers who has honoured the event.

“What we are trying to do is to bring more public and private partnership as a way of supporting the visual art sector. We have been able to tackle very topical issues in the process. We know that with the following and how enthusiastic the audience has been, and the fact that it is a monthly forum is what makes us really happy.

A Question of Being and struggle for identity(Opens in a new browser tab)

“As the forum moves on, we will be expecting more topical issues on how to make art very relevant to the society. We are also going to focus more on what happens to people’s collections and also deliberate on what happens to the artist’s works  when he pass on. I know that in time to come; our art and artists will have a dignified space in the polity. Other things such as virtual reality as form of art and artificial intelligent; how it has fallen into our art practice will be featuring.

Vanguard

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