‘Art Expo Lagos will contribute to GDP’
(In front) The D-G, National Gallery of Art, Abdullahi Muku, Chief Rasheed Gbadamosi supported the Minister of Tourism, Culture and National Orientation in declaring the Art Expo Lagos 2011 open, in Lagos.
By Tajudeen Sowole
Although few guests attended the opening of the International Art Expo Lagos 2011, its major promoters, the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and National Orientation assured that government would not relent in ensuring that visual arts contribute to Nigeria’s GDP.
Addressing an unprecedented few visitors at the National Museum venue of the Art Expo Lagos, the minister, Chief Edem Duke disclosed that visual arts is very strategic to the economic agenda of the current administration.
The International Art Expo Lagos, which debuted in 2008 as ArtExpo Nigeria is organized by one of the ministry’s parastatals, the National Gallery of Art (NGA) in collaboration with Art Galleries Association of Nigeria (AGAN).
Duke argued that there is a link between culture and economic growth. The visual arts sub-division of the culture sector, he stressed, is crucial to this growth.
The minister stated: “The visual arts sub-sector is very strategic to the transformation agenda of President Goodluck Jonathan. This Art Expo, therefore is a strategic catalyst for the economic growth of our nation.”
He added that the crust of the art expo is to create awareness that visual art is business oriented and “if properly harnessed, can provide opportunities for our teeming youths.” While arguing that art and culture are no less important than any other sectors in the quest for the diversification of the nation’s resources from oil and gas-base economy, Duke insisted that “art is capable of attracting enough revenue to “catapult the nation’s GDP.” He cited the example of the Louvre in Paris, which attracts as much 100, 000 tourists, annually and stressed that “the positive economic effect of the art expo in terms of guided tours, hotels, food, trade and the local tourism industry would be nothing short of monumental.”
The minister’s speech of promises and assurances is not any different from that of other representatives of government or the National Assembly that were heard at opening of the past editions of the event. Despite these promises and assurances, the Art Expo Lagos, from one edition to the other, has failed to repeat the attraction of the debut event, held in 2008. In the past editions, the inability of the organizers, the NGA and AGAN to start preparation early enough, has been blamed on late release of funds from government. In fact, the 2011 edition almost did not hold as sources from NGA said the event “was not captured in the 2011 budget of the federal government.”
Few of the stands at the Art Expo Lagos galleries
And as AGAN is still struggling to justify its partnership by trying to get the support of the private sector, the event remains 100 percent government-sponsored. The inability of NGA to raise fund seemed to have further reduced the fortune of the event, as several postponements seemed to have led to further drop in the volume of visitors.
Also the workshop sub-event of the 2011 Art Expo Lagos “would not hold due to circumstances beyond our control,” the Director-General of NGA, Abdullahi Muku stated. He however assured that the event would revert to its traditional August date as from next year.
The General Manager / Chief Executive Officer of the National Theatre, Lagos, Kabir Yusuf (left), U.S. Consular-General, Lagos, Joseph Stafford and wife Kathleen at the opening.
And perhaps to remind Duke and Muku that the main purpose of setting up the NGA has not been met, the chairman of the event, Chief Rasheed Gbadamosi urged the minister to ensure that the national gallery edifice is built in his (Duke) tenure. Gbadamosi however advised Duke to, in the meantime, convince government, on converting one the unused buildings along Marina Lagos to national gallery.
He reasoned that it’s embarrassing that Nigeria has no befitting national gallery to “take visitors to see our great works of arts.”
And when AGAN president, Chief Frank Okonta commended Duke for being the first minister to have attended Art Expo Lagos, there appeared a hope that, indeed, government’s rhetoric on art and culture would be fulfilled.