Showing posts from July, 2010

The Economist discovered Nigerian Art (Collectors)

See, I always knew I was onto something when I started studying Nigerian arts, in fact, I was even ahead of the Economist … no, jokes aside (I’m far too enthusiastic to resist following my heart which led me to Naija, rather than the market …) here, the link to an interesting article in the Economist. You might want to consider it against the background of a variety of other recent publications in respected European and North American news media that promoted contemporary African arts to collectors and professional investors.

Nigeria's art collectors

A nice new market

Another good way to spend your lovely oil money

‘… The collectors say their government cares little about preserving this artistic heritage. They share the cynicism of many Nigerians, who think the politicians are more eager to grab a share of the revenues of sub-Saharan Africa’s biggest oil producer. Instead, the collectors prefer to put their own money into gathering and cataloguing thousands of works of art. “For me, this is a philanthropic act,” says Mr Olagbaju, who notes that Nigeria’s top public galleries struggle with power cuts that leave masterpieces gathering dust in the dark.

More recently, these collectors have realised that they have also been canny investors. Their hobby has started to attract foreign attention—and cash. At an auction of African art in New York in March, the five most expensive lots were Nigerian. A painting by the late Ben Enwonwu went for $91,000. …’

Sure, it’s an acknowledgement of the creativity and professional practice of Nigerian artists and might stimulate much needed local patronage but … Sorry, I fear I haven’t sufficiently analysed this wary feeling in my tummy to write about it in a public space like this. But what do you think?


Society, Natural Resources & Development in Madagascar Recent Contributions by the Research Community

This is the other article I had been thinking about, the other article promoting contemporary African Arts as an investment: The Financial Times’ How to Spend It section from 7 November 2007.

‘… A look around the art world’s major events and museum in the recent years demonstrates the upward mobility of contemporary African art. Within the past couple of years Tate Modern has hosted a show of Hlobo’s work and also shown pieces by artists such as the Malian Seydou Keita. Contemporary African [art] survey shows appear at the Guggenheim Bilbao and The Nelson Atkin’s Museum of Art, Kansa. […] But it was really Africa Remix, which toured museums from 2004 to 2007 […], that garnered most attention. […] Most of these artists had shown internationally before but Africa Remix brought them together as a powerful overview of voices from the continent. ‘Interest in African art has been increasing since about 19993,” says Elisabeth Lalouschek, artistic director of London’s October Gallery, an early representative of now big-name African artists such as Hazoume and Ghana’s El Anatsui, “but we’ve really noticed a surge in the post three or four years, both in curatorial interest and in prices.” …’

So, this is the context in which the above article and the rising prices for Ben Enwonwu’s works mentioned by the economist need to be considered.

Reading Material ...

Reading material, if you got some time: David Ogilvy Barrie at the University of East Anglia on 6 May 2010: A Bigger Picture: Why Contemporary Art Curators Need to Get out More


Bicycle Decoration and Everyday Aesthetics in Northern NigeriaBicycle Decoration and Everyday Aesthetics in Northern Nigeria

I really respect his work anyway and his PhD thesis saved me lots of time skimming through ABU’s archives myself but I love him even more for this quote, which Chika Okeke unearthed and published on his blog:

It is extremely difficult to obtain an object without at least resorting so some kind of violence: I believe half your museum is stolen.

It’s from a letter by the German traveler Richard Kandt[1] to Felix Luschan[2] at the Ethnological Museum in Berlin and dates to the same year British troops looted the palace of the Oba in Benin. The Ethnological Museum in Berlin, incidentally, holds one of the largest collections of the artifacts thus ‘acquired.’ Take it as a contribution to current debates about redistribution.

Oh, and if you happen to be in Lagos – don’t miss your chance to meet the man himself. Chika Okeke is speaking at CCA Lagos this weekend. More details here.

[1] Wikipedia only offers a German language entry

[2] In German language again, here’s more on the former Assistant Director of the museum.