Monday 6 May 2013

Nigeria’s art authority faults U.K gallery over GTBank-sponsored ‘curatorial post’

The mission of a U.K-based gallery, Tate Modern in promoting the appreciation of Nigerian art abroad has been faulted by the National Gallery of Art (NGA) Abuja.

At a recent gathering in Lagos, the Director-General of NGA, Abdullahi Muku noted that Tate has undermined the constitutional duty of NGA by embarking on "acquisition of Nigerian art" without consultation with the latter.
Segun Agaje, MD GTB (LEFT) and Director, Tate Modern, Chris Dercon 

Tate, in partnership with Guaranty Trust Bank (GTB) is currently promoting art from Africa, including Nigeria, via a project described, among other goals as creating “a dedicated curatorial post at Tate Modern to focus African art”. In 2011, the partnership was unveiled in Lagos at a press briefing. Last March, Tate’s representatives were in Nigeria in continuation of their partnership with GTB. 

Recently, during a gathering in Lagos organised by the British Council towards preparation for Nigeria’s participation in the 2015 Venice Biennale, Muku drew the attention of foreign organisations to the importance of consulting with NGA on the matters of modern and contemporary Nigerian art.

In a remark read by his Special Assistant, Mufu Onifade, the D-G of NGA stated: “It is gratifying to note that Nigeria’s rich endowment in creativity is as sure as the air we breathe, yet the management of it is a totally different ball game. As our nation prepares for its first participation in the Venice Biennale, the role of the National Gallery of Art is very crucial to such developments. It becomes imperative, therefore, for the British Council to take cognizance of the essence of collaborating with the National Gallery of Art in all matters relating to contemporary Nigerian Art. It is our statutory responsibility as a Government Parastatal  in the Federal Ministry of Tourism, Culture and National Orientation, to ensure that contemporary Art of Nigeria is not only preserved, but that it is also properly propagated in accordance with the Country’s legal provisions”.
D-G, NGA, Abdullahi Muku
Muku however cited the Tate example as one which ignores the authority of NGA. “Only recently, the Tate Gallery was in Nigeria for acquisition of Nigerian Art. The action was precipitated without consultation with the National Gallery of Art, Nigeria. Such actions are expected to be expedited in consultation with the National Gallery in order to preserve and sustain the mutually benefitting cultural relationship that exists between Nigeria and the United Kingdom”.

 In 2011, when Tate’s partner in Nigeria, GTB hosted representatives of the U.K-based gallery, the bank’s Managing Director, Segun 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”.

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