Acting Managing Director, GTBank, Segun Agbaje and Director, Tate Modern, Chris Dercon at the launch of the GTBank/Tate Modern Art Partnership in London recently
By Tajudeen Sowole
Friday, July 8, 2011
CONSTANT creation of space for African art in Europe through documentation, interaction and exhibitions would, in the next three years, take the focus of collaborative projects between Guaranty Trust Bank and a leading United Kingdom art gallery, the Tate Modern.
THIS, according to the Acting Managing Director of GTBank, Segun Agbaje, is aimed at projecting the importance of African art to the rest of the world
At the GTBank’s headquarters, in Lagos, few days ago, Agbaje explained that the partnership will improve international awareness about the various genres of African art and provide new opportunities for artists across the continent.
Last year, at the Tate Gallery, GTBank sponsored Chris Ofili’s retrospective show, which featured 45 paintings, as well as pencil drawings and watercolours. Ofili, Nigerian-born British artist belongs to a group of artists, mostly in their 40s and 30s, known as The Young British Artists (YBA) - with common background such as studying at either Royal College of Art or Goldsmith College of Art. Some of the movement’s key members are known for their works, which have made radical statements on the contemporary art landscape. They are the new face of British art.
In fact, Ofili is regarded as the most famous black artist in Britain. Also, in the same year, the bank sponsored Yinka Shonibare’s temporary public sculpture, Nelson’s Ship in a Bottle on the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square, U.K.
Agbaje listed the areas of focus for the continued partnership with Tate: “creation of a dedicated curatorial post at Tate Modern to focus on African art, which involves exploring contemporary practice in the region; an acquisition fund to enable the Tate enhance its holdings of work by African artist; an annual project in London and in Africa that will enable continuous exchanges between young artists, curators, collectors and cultural institutions in African and internationally".
On the curatorial post, he assured that the new curator will help to deepen knowledge and understanding of the impact of art from Africa. He stressed that “at Guaranty Trust Bank plc, we believe that Art is an intricate part of the African heritage and a complete reflection of everything it means to be African; creative, beautiful, industrious and hopeful. This conviction has led to our involvement in numerous Art promoting initiatives over the years and is the bedrock for this new partnership with Tate.”
He also stressed that the partnership with Tate will play an important role in fuelling economic and social progress, hence committed along with our African and international stakeholders to strive together with Tate, African artists, curators and cultural institutions. In actualising the goals of this collaboration, the partnership, he said would look at supporting art talent in Africa, safe guarding our African heritage for future generations and enhancing the perception of our continent and country by the rest of the world.
Chris Dercon, Director, Tate Modern said: “This important partnership between Tate and Guaranty Trust Bank marks the recognition of the significance of modern and contemporary art in Africa. We now have an unprecedented opportunity to work with colleagues in the region, with energy, curiosity and eagerness, to define new parameters in art. This is the beginning of being able to give African art the focus it deserves with audiences around the world.”
Agbaje assured that the corporate agenda of GTBank, which has long years of focus on visual arts is not likely to change to another genre. “It’s a passion of over 20 years with the visual arts.” This, he explained has nothing to do with lack of interests in other areas of the arts, such as music, movies. Another corporate group could do similar things in other areas, he said. He argued that if every corporate organisation takes focus on a particular area of the arts, professionals in the culture sector would contribute to the larger economy".
And as artists are gradually getting the evaluation aspect of the visual arts into proper perspective, Agbaje noted that consistency will sustain the right value for contemporary Nigerian art in the global art market.