Saturday 19 November 2011


With 750 exhibits, Art Expo Nigeria joins the world
By Tajudeen Sowole
(First published Tuesday, August 26, 2008)
   TOMORROW, the nation's art scene records another history as a global art event trend, Art Expo makes a local debut in Lagos.
An initiative of the National Gallery of Art (NGA), Abuja, in conjunction with the Art Galleries Association of Nigeria (AGAN), Art Expo Nigeria scheduled to hold at the National Museum, Onikan, Lagos from tomorrow through August 31, 2008 is designed after the popular international event, ArtExpo New York.
   The parent event celebrated its 30th year of existence last February. Every year, the event also hold in Toronto Canada, as Toronto ArtExpo and Art Expo London, among other countries.
According to the NGA, many countries all over the world organise Art Expo annually or biennially. The nation's apex gallery listed some of such events around the world: "They include, Art Expo Chicago, Art Expo New York, Art Expo London, Art Expo Malaysia, Art Expo Berlin, Art Expo South Africa and Art Expo Las Vegas. Art Expo Las Vegas for instance, has been consistent for over 29 years."
   It will be recalled that on Thursday, March 13, this year, NGA held a gathering of stakeholders and deliberated on how to organise what it called Visual Art Expo. Tomorrow's event, Art Expo Nigeria, is the product of that gathering which had earlier gave birth to the gallery operators body AGAN.
  At the National Museum, venue of Art Expo Nigeria, few days ago, the organiers, briefed members of the media on the preparedness of AGAN to host the event.
   The president of the association, Chief Frank Okonta stated that the event is aimed at promoting the nation's art, particularly bringing art to the mainstream economy. He said: "The Art Expo is holding in this part of the world for the first time. Art Expo Nigeria is an opportunity for all those who love art to come and see the richness of Nigeria's robust visual arts culture. In this show, over 750 art works will be on display and much like ArtExpo New York which is the world's largest fine and popular art fair, it is hoped that the Nigerian version will ultimately become the biggest art show in Africa. The intention is to create an art market place that will offer the general public an opportunity to see original paintings and sculpture, and works on paper. Whether you're a seasoned collector, interested in adding to the allure of your home's interior design, or simply an art enthusiast interested in viewing the latest trends in the visual arts, ArtExpo Nigeria will have something for everyone."
    Representative of the NGA present at the meeting, Philomena Obasegie of the Public Relations Department and Easter Evbodaghe, Research Unit said the opening is expected to be conducted by leading personalities from both the Federal and Lagos State Government.
   The works expected to be on display, Okonta added, are sorted from 30 art galleries across the nation, including the works of various artists from the old masters, both living and late, to the younger as well as up and coming artists. Among the older generations of artists whose works will be exhibited at the event, Okonta said are that of Ben Enwonwu, Prince Okuku, Bruce Onobrakpeya and David Dale, Kolade Oshinowo among others.
Among the new generation artists' works to be on display are Biodun Olaku, Edosa Ogiugo, Ndidi Dike, Rom Isichei, Biodun Omolayo and Tola Wewe, Okonta who is also the proprietor of Nkem Gallery said.
   The director of Mydrim Gallery, Sinmidele Ogunsanya reaffirmed the commitment of the NGA to ensure that the event holds. "NGA, particularly, our able Director-General, Joe Musa has been very supportive as our only sponsor of the event. As this is a maiden edition, we have tried our best to put up a standard expo, even though there could be one or two areas to be improved upon," Ogunsanya said.
   In an event of this magnitude, information is very crucial, particularly for the majority of visitors who might be having their first encounter with art at such a large gathering. Ogunsanya assured that there would be enough information available for visitors, in addition to the catalogue of the event.
    Still on the cautious approach to the event being a maiden edition, the four-day duration, the Vice resident of AGAN, Richard Ogolo agreed could be longer in subsequent editions. "The duration could have been more; this is the first edition, so we are trying to be careful how we handle things. The cost of running the event everyday runs into several hundred of thousands of naira," just as Okonta stressed that this much of funding comes from only NGA. Additional or alternative sponsors, he hoped, would be secured for future events.
    With 30 galleries, each displaying 25 works, one wondered how the selections were reached, in a country with such a diverse art, particularly the complexity of balancing the various medium.
Another member present at the briefing, Mudiare Onobrakpeya, said there was a selection team for the art expo under the association's central working committee headed by Treasure House boss, Olaseinde Odimayo. Onobrakpeya, the mangers of Harmattan Workshop Gallery, Victoria, Lagos explained that the committee, in selecting the works, ensured originality as well as a set standard for the art expo.
     At the unveiling of the project in Lagos in May, this year, Musa explained that the initial plan of the NGA was to get a franchise for Art Expo Africa, but arrived at a conclusion to start from Nigeria, first. The success of the National Museum event, apparently will determine if there would be the continental version.
Responding, Okonta said AGAN is ready to take on Africa after this event, and that the forthcoming African Regional Summit on Visual Art and Exhibition, ARESUVA provides the association an opportunity to test the continental waters. "AGAN is participating in ARESUVA as our members are actively involved in the exhibition aspect of the event. With that we are ready for the world," he said.
Perhaps the uniqueness to the Art Expo Nigeria event is the inclusion of age group stand. The man who is well known in children art, Biodun Omolayo, who is also a member of AGAN and present at the briefing assured that his pet project, Young at Art will have a stand at the expo.
   On the prospect of the event, NGA stressed: "Art Expo Nigeria is conceptualized by NGA to be an annual event for the visual art sector. That is, every year, private galleries in Nigeria will bring together the best modern art works from within and outside the country, display the same, professionally, for members of the public to view and appreciate. Hence, it is a big market for the visual artists.
   "With such yearly event, which is competitive in essence, it is hoped that the level of art creativity is likely to be further enhanced."
   Before the emergence of AGAN, courtesy of NGA, Okonta was said to have started gathering some of the galleries to form an association. But it was found to be too sketchy to be recognised by the NGA; most of the gallery operators were not involved.
However, this evolving group known as Gallery Owners Association of Nigeria, GALOAN was used as a spring board to get all the operators represented at the meeting to form a common front, hence the birth of AGAN.

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