By Tajudeen Sowole
Involving sponsors and supporters of art from conception to the outlet point is, perhaps, taken for granted in most parts of developed climes. But when such commitment occurred in Nigeria as seen in the partnership that existed between sculptor, Richardson Ovbiebo and Hydrocarbon Advisors Limited (HAL), a hope of ‘professionalising’ corporate support for art brightened.
For Ovbiebo and HAL, the bonding produced the artist's solo art exhibition titled Yet Another Place, which was just shown at Omenka Gallery, Ikoyi, Lagos. As the exhibition came three years after Ovbiebo's last outing, in which door was used as a metaphor in highlighting domestic behaviourial patterns, he continued the probity, extending it to the concept of habitat in general.
In the artist’s current show, a body of work that radiates his mood was viewed few days after formal opening of Yet Another Place, where the works were still on display.
After the door metaphor of his last solo show, Richardson brings a space infested with wheels, both in actual and conceptual sculpture forms. Also, his works in Yet Another Place, which have quite a number of metal sculptures deodorised in colours, confirm the increasing number of artists who are sacrificing natural metal texture on the alter of painterly art. It has been observed that natural metal pieces are on the decline in the Lagos art collection space, perhaps, surrendering to the mentality of ‘it’s not art if not painterly and colourful.’
But in Something About Agent II and Aso Ebi Gele I and II, natural metal texture is retained, at least to an extent. And comes the real opportunity - for anyone who cares – to appreciate natural metal content as another floor piece Agent II offers that much.
As a sculptor whose work thrives on the diverse application of materials, Ovbiebo , in this body of work also supports the blurring of line between art and designs, so suggests a set of works under Street Codes series. And quite of thematic importance is the complexity of defining shelter in urban cities of Nigeria, which the exhibition focuses.
The entire works in the exhibition, Ovbiebo explained, accounted for what he described as “introspection.” Indeed, Yet Another Place offered the artist a broader space for expression, particularly, having shown traces of incendiary contents in the past, despite limited opportunity. But the depth of the themes exposed someone whose search for shelter, perhaps, has generated a traumatised definition of habitat.
Releasing the trauma could not have come at a better time as HAL, a conscious supporter offered Ovbiebo the right ventilation. Despite being incorporated four years ago, HAL, which started operation formally this year, strangely, is already involved in corporate sponsorship of art, so soon.
HAL, according to art patron, Hakeem Adedeji, “got involved in the exhibition since 2013.” He disclosed that the real aim of HAL was to take away “financial risk” from the mind of the artist so that there existed a full concentration on the studio work.
HAL is an investment company with focus on the oil and gas industry, providing “independent financial advisory, capital raising restructuring & recapitalization, and mergers & acquisition solutions to medium and large players Nigerian and West African market.” But Adedeji, the man behind the company is not a strange name to the Nigerian art landscape when it comes to patronage. His experience, he said, informed him about the challenges artists always face in organisning art exhibitions. “My experience dealing with artists across generations, over the years, has shown that most of the galleries do not invest in art exhibitions,” said Adedeji who is seen as a quiet collector. “We got involved with Richardson by taking care of the cost of producing the works, right from start of the concept to the point of exhibition.”
And of interest is his disclosure that when the works were ready, the partnership was not in any hurry to have an exhibition until when they got “the right time.” Indeed, such strategy is strange to the art scene in this part of the world; some artists hardly wait for the works to dry before heading to the gallery.
For HAL, it’s about “professionalising art support and sponsorship.” Adedeji has been collecting art since 1982, a passion he increased on his return to Nigeria ten years after. Strangely however, Adedeji described himself as “a patron, not a collector.” He argued that collecting is just one of the passions he has built in art appreciation over the decades.
He decried what he noted as unfair treatment of artists as “they are tossed around, even to collect their money after exhibiting or selling works.” So, for HAL, the patron assured that the “artist makes the money, we promote the brand.”
He argued that understanding art patronage goes beyond gatecrashing into art as a passion. Sharing his experience in art patronage, Adedeji recalled how he regained his real sense of cultural value in the U.K. “My real sense of culture deciphered at 16 when I traveled to the U.K., despite the fact that I already had passion for art before I left.”
Omenka Gallery noted that since Ovbiebo graduated in 2007 from Yaba College of Technology as a sculptor, he has participated in various group exhibitions at the gallery in Lagos.