Saturday 19 November 2011


The Collectors’ Series… wedlock of art and hospitality
 By Tajudeen Sowole

An initiative that focuses on art collection as tool to drive hospitality business is being experimented in Lagos

IT’S a gathering of art collectors, artists and curators. Tagged The Collectors’ Series, the collaboration is being expressed through art exhibitions in a new environment outside the regular art gallery space.
  Forum, which brings artists and collectors together such as this, is not exactly new to the Nigerian visual art sub-section of the culture sector, particularly in Lagos. For example, a group, which comprises of artists and collectors, known as Visual Arts Society of Nigeria (VASON) organises exhibitions, which showcase works from new and old collections, yearly.
  However, The Collectors’ Series is applying new dimension by creating fresh ambience and convergence for local and international art appreciation as well as enhancing productivity in the creation of art.
  Ahead of the opening of The Collectors’ Series-I, at The Wheatbaker Hotel, Ikoyi, Lagos Island, representative of the collectors, and Chief Executive Officer of Communicating for Change (CFC), Mrs Sandra Mbanefo Obiago stated that the series “is an initiative to increase art appreciation, strengthen and showcase Nigerian artists as well as invest in the growth and expansion of the art industry.” 
Duke Asidere’s painting, Music and Man (1997)

  She explained that The Collectors’ Series will be holding quarterly, and “to be curated by myself and our art partner, the Centre of Contemporary Art Lagos (CCA).”   
 The first series has been planned to run in two stages: the first stage, which commenced on Sunday, November 13, ended last Wednesday, while the second stage will run from November 22 to 30, 2011.
  The maiden exhibition, which featured paintings by cubist, Duke Asidere and studio captures by modeling/advertising photographers Kelechi Amadi-Obi and Yetunde Ayeni-Babaeko, was a classic blend of art and hospitality.
  Asidere is showcasing 24 works, which include paintings, sketches, and mixed media from his series such as face, portrait, numbers and spray series, some of which are dated I997. From his sitting and women series – displayed along the staircase of the hotel – spilling onto the lobby, subtlety in brushing enhances an architectural space that seems to redefine hospitality.
 In Amadi-Obi comes his Emotion Series shot in 2000 and Gele in Bloom Series.  In the gele series, he uses the runway style, combining silhouette and highlighting techniques, to stress the elegance of the head-wrap and tie, a uniquely Nigerian fashion. With these images, an interior decoral as well as conceptual value of photography meets. 
  For Ayeni-Babaeko who declared that her images are about “beauty, strength, power, sensitivity, and sexuality photographed from a woman’s perspective” a more conceptual touch is added.
  Art in a hotel environment may not be new, but the curatorial contents of The Collectors’ Series, blending with the architectural space seems to be making a lot of difference in ushering a new dawn in Nigerian art appreciation.
  And given the unimpressive record of photography in Nigeria’s art space, two photographers in a three-artists show organized by collectors appeared like a sudden shift of taste in art appreciation. As one of the most vocal critics of Nigerian painters, CCA’s unhidden preference for “conceptual art” content, perhaps, has tilted the weight to photography genre in this show.
Red Gele in Bloom (2011), by Kelechi Amadi-Obi

 However, Jude Anogwih of CCA assured that the exhibiting artists  “are going to set a precedence to intellectualise art in idea and content.”
 Basically, the focus of the series, Mbanefo Obiago disclosed “is to collaborate, celebrate our art and creativity, create a channel for local and international exhibitions, capacity building and documentation of artists.”
 The initiative, she added is being hosted and supported by two art patrons: oil and gas entrepreneur, Joe Obiago and a veteran banker, Robert Mbonu. And when Obiago stated that “Nigerian artists need more exposure on the global art market,” he was stating the obvious. Reason: in the international market rating, the gap between Nigerian artist such as Ben Enwonwu and a South African artist, William Kentridge, for example, is so wide that the history of these two artists cannot explain. Despite the fact that Enwonwu was already a renowned artist in the 1960s, at the time Kentridge was barely a teenager, the latter’s work has a higher provenance in the international art market, perhaps, because of stronger documentation and exposure.
  Mbanefo Obiago assured that the documentation aspect of The Collectors’ Series would explore new outlets in addition to catalogue of exhibitions. One of these, she explained, is to ensure that in every tour or visitor guide of The Wheatbaker, there is art content such as brief about the artists and their works.
  Mbonu, founder of an entrepreneurial art
resource group, The Art Exchange, noted that collectors need to invest more in presenting art works at physical and virtual exhibitions. “We need to also look at art as investment grade assets which can be traded and exchanged. The Collectors’ Series is an important step in bringing together art collectors to collaborate and explore new opportunities.”
 On capacity building, Mbanefo-Obiago stated ten percent of the income generated from the sale of any work will be invested in a special art fund. This, is “to encourage the production of new, cutting edge work, providing training and art residences for local artists, and increasing the documentation of Nigerian art.”
  Stressing the synergy between art, architecture and hospitality, architect and Director of The Wheatbaker Hotels Ltd, Mosun Ogunbanjo argued that art is an important element in lifestyle. She noted that The Collectors’ Series “strengthens our brand as an art destination, while fostering the development of Nigeria’s vibrant art scene.”
Tangled by Yetunde Ayeni-Babaeko

 Founder and Director of CCA Bisi Silva assured that “through curating innovative exhibitions, we are providing an important alternative platform for a diverse audience to appreciate and invest in art development in Nigeria.”
  The organizers disclosed that The Collectors Series started gathering momentum in 2009 when leading 35 Nigerian collectors and curators met to share experiences in growing and exhibiting their private collections. 

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