Gbenga Offo on Relations between Artists and Galleries in Nigeria

Some interesting views regarding (the) Nigerian art world(s) by Gbenga Offo in an article in the Guardian (Nigeria) the other day. Here some excerpts. Read the full article on the Guardian’ (Nigeria) website.

How Art Galleries, Historians Can Add Value To Nigerian Art

By Tajudeen Sowole*

… For every artist, the immediate environment appears to be peculiar, isn’t it? “Yes”, he agrees. The Nigerian environment, for example, “where the artist struggles to pay his bills, there is a compromise”. Such compromise, he adds quickly, depends on the status of an artist. “At my level, I should be able to do my thing and get the public to follow me”. […] Between the artist and galleries, the vacuum of management and professionalism is widening. It‘s been noted that most of the galleries in Nigeria are just event venues and art shops. …

… “It’s not for the artist to be submissive; gallery should say to the artist ‘I want to do business with you’. The artist, he admits, is not a good businessman. “But he wants to earn a living, so needs somebody who is honest enough”. Offo, an executive member of Guild of Professional Fine Artists of Nigeria {GFA} indicts most galleries for “running down artists” to create impression that the artists’ works have no value. Such galleries, he discloses, “based on my experience would still go ahead and sell the same works at higher prices after acquiring them at ridiculous prices from the artists”. He describes the behaviour as the mentality of rich versus poor, an extension of the larger Nigerian society. “A gallery situated in the choice area of Ikoyi or Victoria Island sees an artist from Mushin, as inferior”. He urges art galleries to take a cue from the music industry. The art, he insists, should come first and not the creator. …

… With the increase in the visibility for Nigerian artists via art exhibitions and auctions, identity, for some sections of artists’ community, is becoming stronger. However, the trajectory of such identity appears to have been less focused by art historians.

P.S. Tajudeen Sowole blogs at Arts with Tajudeen Sowole. Worth visiting.


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