Friday 2 August 2013

Olagoke breathes charity entrepreneurship with 'Art Alive'

By Tajudeen Sowole

With the homecoming of U.K-based artist and art gallery businessman, Lanre Olagoke, Nigerian artists who are yet to have outlets in Europe may heave a sigh of relief.

Olagoke, who said  he runs three art galleries in the U.K is currently in Lagos with the hope of adding Nigerian artists’ work to his collection of largely British and other European artists being represented by his galleries. He laments that, currently, despite his long years in the art business “I have no single Nigerian artist in my collection”. 
Olagoke’s interest also cuts across the arts and culture sector. He has visited the National Theatre’s Artists’ Village at the Annex wing of the Iganmu complex and marveled at the “enormous” talents he saw. He was so stunned that “I had to immediately alerted BBC to come over and do a feature on the arts and culture professionals here”.  
Lanre Olagoke’s Hope, a print copy from Limited editions.
While awaiting the BBC feature, Olagoke appeared to have started his own short documentary, perhaps, to aid the whole concept of promoting the arts and culture sector of his fatherland. Footage of the video shows the abandoned building of the defunct ‘National Arts Gallery’ and its vicinity, featuring some culture workers.

Still on promoting Nigerian art, Olagoke’s major future project is what he disclosed as a museum of contemporary and ancient art, designed to link the creative works at home with others from overseas. “I see a lot of prospect in using art to bring creative people abroad back home. So, I have plans to establish a Museum of African Arts in Diaspora”. The museum, he explained, will be located in Nigeria. 

Apart from supporting professional artists, Olagoke’s Art Alive also has a trust section and NGAO. In the U.K the Arts Alive Trust, he said, uses art as empowerment for prison inmates, Similar model of supporting artists, he explained is his goal for Nigeria.

 The three galleries and the trust section, he said, have an army of artists to cater for. “Artist abroad which we support - are over 250”.  At home, he already has some artists who will benefit from the initiative. But “for confidentiality, I can't mention names of the artists now”.

As an artist, his work roves much around abstract impressionism. One of the works titled Hope, according to the artist depicts despair of "today" and respite of tomorrow. “The suffering of the present time, which is not compared with the Glory that is about to be revealed exist In every aspect of life".
However, Olagoke could encounter issue in marketing his art here. Reason: the Nigerian art market is not so print-friendly, contrary to the artist’s plans to sell, for example, the print of his Hope at a price that is higher than original paintings of some well-known signatures in the country.  it should be recalled that in the past, several attempts have been made by artists, galleries and promoters to promote prints. Such efforts usually ended up unsuccessful, despite the high quality of the reproduction. “My prints are in high quality; lithograph material”, Olagoke boasted when he was briefed about the history of prints in Nigeria. Giclee print – widely regarded as having high texture quality has not made any difference to change collectors’ hard-line attitude here. 

Olagoke said his three galleries situated in  Carnaby Street Kingly Court,  have been in existence 2011. 
Lanre Olagoke

The artist’s bio says he was born in London in 1962. At four years old, his family moved back to Nigeria. He returned to the U.K at 19 and started revisiting pic his love for art, which actually began from an early age.

Most important to his career, he said, is the experience ha acquired as an apprentice to late Ben Enwonwu. “'I first met Professor Ben Enwonwu in 1985-87 and became an apprentice under the great man”

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