Saturday 1 June 2013

New art journal, Omenka debuts with focus on the secondary market

By Tajudeen Sowole
As the scope of the visual arts is expanding, congesting the art space with activities and new ideas, a new specialized art journal, Omenka,  makes its entry in Lagos.  

Scheduled for launch tomorrow at The Wheatbaker Hotel, Ikoyi, Lagos, Omenka, according to the publishers started as The Awakening few years ago, as a solo effort of Ben Enwonwu Foundation, covering, but restricted in scope.
ut is now Omenka, according to the publishers

Returned as Omenka, the art magazine is now published jointly by the foundation and Revilo and Omenka Gallery.
Cover of Omenka

Described by the publishers as “as Nigeria’s first art, business and lifestyle magazine”, the first edition has the the iconic painting, Tutu, by Ben Enwonwu on the front cover. A 76-page magazine, the three leading articles focus the rising secondary art market in Nigeria and abroad. Two of these include interviews with Giles Peppiatt, director of African contemporary art at U.K-based Bonhams and Robert Mbonu, director of an art brokerage group, Art Exchange.

The first edition of Omenka also has artist, Nnenna Okore as a ‘Material Girl’ and Abass Kelani in his Lagos studio.   

As laudable as the idea of a magazine on art is, the sustainability of Omenka could be a concern, given the declining reading attitude of artists, and unwilling art market to patronize the print media through adverts. The Publisher and Editor-in-Chief, Oliver Enwonwu argued that the rested publication The Wakening had offered an insight into the challenges that may arise in sustaining Omenka. “based on the response we got from The Awakening, we are sure of a viable venture now”. He noted that, even with the former magazine, “the art scene was not as strong as it is now”.

Contributing editor, Luciano Uzuegbu was also sure of the success of Omenka, describing the magazine as “a good reference for scholars, artists and policy makers”.

The magazine, they assured “aims to give visibility to modern and contemporary art in Africa by providing updates on various art movements, show reviews and event schedules.” Also, the magazine “will publish regular reports on museum acquisitions and international art fairs as well as profiles on eminent collectors and recent interviews with high profile contemporary artists”.
 On the choice of name, Enwonwu explained that it’s deliberate as part of sustaining the legacy of his father. Omenka, he said “means one who does great things”. In fact, the lettering of the name on the magazine, he disclosed “is a direct reproduction from Enwonu’s writing”.   

The publishers hope that with news and insider intelligence on the African art market Omenka will “investigate key trends and showcases the artists who drive the industry”. Its target readers, they said include critics, writers, art professionals, historians, designers, and art enthusiasts. 

The magazine is segmented into Antennae (sneak peek, reviews, trends), Focus (interviews and profiles), Lifestyle, Market file (auctions, investments, gallery, artist dossier), Report (studio visit, show and tell, Omenka reads), and Feature.
In the lifestyle section, The Wheatbaker Hotel, is profiled as a promoter of “Nigerian visual culture”.

The next issue of Omenka, according to the publishers focuses photography.

Contributions to Omenka include Neil Coventry’s articles on cataloguing and documentation, collecting and preserving photography, the famous Lagos Photo Festival and interviews with J. D. O’khai Ojeikere, Kavita Chellaram, Caline Chagoury and renowned Béninoise artist, Ludovic Fadairo.

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