Friday 9 September 2011

Nimbus Art Gallery

Return of Nimbus Art Gallery
 By Tajudeen Sowole  
Friday, 09 September 2011 00:00
 As the inadequate promotion content in gallery-artist relationship is still a source of worry for artists and observers, the re-emergence of Nimbus Art Gallery will either change this behaviour or strengthen it, so suggests the body language of the returnee. 
AS at 2006, when Nimbus Art Centre closed for business, after its gallery section had the last show Third Semester , by Duke Asidere;  it was one of the very few art event venues that  seemed to have traces of promotion flavour for artists.
Obi of Onitsha opening the gallery
Even now, it’s a common complaint among artists that galleries here are mere events venue or art shops. Art galleries, they argued, should have full promotion contractual interest, which should go beyond one-week exhibition affair, so that the artist is better committed to studio practice, hence attain higher value in creativity.
However, the shadow of a larger prospect cast on the art business in the past three to four years, has left artists with less space for exhibitions as gallery owners prefer to display in-house collections to maximize profits and avoid taking risks in exhibitions.
Nimbus, few days ago, returned to the scene, at a new location inside Bogobiri House, Ikoyi – opposite its former abode – with a group show titled Metanoia, an exhibition of paintings and sculptures. The theme, stated the gallery proprietor, Chike Nwagbogu, is a Greek word meaning rebirth. He declared, during a chat few days before the opening that “it’s a rebirth of the Nimbus Art Centre.”
Femi Kuti posed with one of the works of Lemi Ghariokwu at the gallery
And the list of exhibiting artists added flavour to this rebirth notion. They include surreal master, Abayomi Barber, Ben Enwonwu, Bruce Onobrakpeya Muraina Oyelami, Ben Osawe, Reuben Ugbine, Tola Wewe, Ghariokwu Lemi, Ben Osaghae, Ademola Ogunajo and Babalola Lawson.

  HRH, Igwe Nnameka Alfred Achebe Mni Agboidi,Obi Of Onitsha was the Royal Father of the Day at the opening while the Special Guest of Honour was the AfroBeat King Femi  Anikolapo Kuti.
  Regular exhibitions, either as group or individuals, by galleries, supposedly, promote art more as the viewing public increases, hence a rise in prospective art enthusiasts and eventual collectors. However, sources from most of the galleries disclosed that display of in-house collections give more sales and lesser running expenses. Exhibition, they argued, is more of promotion for the artists, and not the gallery. Indeed, this has been noticed, clearly, in the programming of art exhibitions of most galleries.

In fact, the drop in the number of days of exhibition from two, three weeks or even as long as one month, about 10 years ago, to current just one week or even less, confirms that the galleries are not so excited about exhibitions, nowadays. This has led to dwindling number of shows. For example, the busiest of the galleries, which exhibits artists regularly, make perhaps just five or less shows in a year. More worrisome, less than three percent of the galleries across the state organise exhibition.
Except for non-commercial galleries and art event venues such as the Centre for Contemporary Art (CCA), Sabo, Lagos; Goethe Institut (now temporarily located at City Hall, Lagos Island) and Alliance Francaise formerly in Ikoyi, now in Yaba, most other galleries show for only five or seven days.
Chike, taking the Obi of Onitsha round the gallery
Also, some of the galleries, in order to minimize risk, have been hiring out space – asking artists to pay and detaching themselves from joint risks. Mostly affected by this development are young artists who cannot afford to pay for space or have the clout to influence impressive collections, even when a gallery decides on joint risk.
In choice places such as Ikoyi and Victoria Island, loss of tenancy is common among gallery owners.
FOR Nimbus, “it’s a minor miracle,” coming back after five years, Nwagbogu said. And to remain in business for the sake of artists too, its mode of operation will change from what it was before the long break, Nwagbogu hinted. He agreed that promotion of art should be the immediate priority of everyone, but a gallery, he argued, has to be articulate. “We are going to do both: joint risk or ask artists to pay for the space. It depends on what we are showing,” he explained.
Recently, galleries who reject joint risk with artists, according to sources, now charge as much as N700, 000 for one week. “We may be charging half of that,” Nwagbogu said.
He also assured that shows could run as long as 10 days “because we don’t want to be doing run-of-the-mill kind of shows.” For example, next after Metanoia, he disclosed, will be a group show, the New Energies series, featuring works of renowned mixed media artists and lecturer, El-Anatsui and his former students.
From the design of the new, but modest-spaced Nimbus, come indigenous lighting gadgets, and use of space, which are complemented by uncommon paintings of Lemi and Ogunajo, whose pop art style roves across thematic generations.
Metanoia, appeared to have set the tone for the kind of shows Nimbus promised to feature ahead. For example, works that are rarely scene at exhibitions, which collectors scramble to get at auctions, were noticed in the gallery during the mounting. At least, two-three Osawe’s woods and Enwonwu, which Nwagbogu said, “are from the collection of Nimbus,” are among the exhibits.
Nimbus of old, for those who were familiar with the art scene, indeed, had quite a large collections of master pieces, which were not as valued as they are currently. And as there are indications of more of such works in the gallery’s collections – at this period of higher awareness in the market value of these artists – authenticity or provenance of these works could be an issue.
“No issue about the originality of our works,” Nwagbogu assured as he found the ‘BE’ (Ben Enwonwu) signature in one of the works being mounted.

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