Sunday 3 June 2018

Knowledge of 'Collecting Art' With Asibelua Foundation

Mr Nero Asibelua (left), giving copies of the book to Mr Mike Omoighe, representative of Yaba College of Techonology, Lagos.

Art appreciation is incomplete without the knowledge of what to collect. And to spread that knowledge, a not-for-profit organisation, Nero Asibelua Foundation has donated copies of 'Collecting Art: A Handbook' to some Fine and Applied Arts higher Institutions of learning across Nigeria.

In partnership with Quintessence Gallery, the ceremony tagged  'Books For Knowledge',  took place at the gallery, Parkview Ikoyi, Lagos.

The donation is Nero Asibelua Foundation's contribution to the lmowledge of art appreciation in Nigeria. Written by
Fabian Ajogwu and Jess Castellote, 'Collecting Art: A Handbook', according to founder of the foundation, Mr Nero Asibelua, is a rich book for all.

"As a foundation, we want to donate knowledge to Nigerian universities", Asibelua stated during the ceremony. "This is just a ceremonial activity, we will distribute the books to as many schools as possible".
Federal College of Education (Technical, Akoka); Yaba College of Technology, Lagos and University of Port Harcourt, Rivers State, among other Schools collected during the ceremony.

Speakers at the event included Prof Ebun Clark, Dr Kunle Filani, Prof Frank Ugiomoh and the authors of the book, among others.

"I am a modest collector", founder, Mr  Asibelua told guests during the donation ceremony. He shared his experience of owning a piece of Ben Enwonwu given to him by his father. Sadly, "I lost it to pay my rent". And the buyer of the piece, he disclosed sold it for several millions of naira few years after. From that experience, Asibelua has leant that "art outlives you; it is for posterity".

Another art collector, Prof Clark who recalled she started collecting in 1965 with a Bruce Onobrakpeya piece noted that currently, the commercial drive seems to be more of interest to people. "Then, it was just for the love of art; no secondary market". In fact, she questioned the value, which the secondary art market has brought in lately. "I am not sure if auction is good for the art", she said, noting that "people are now more cautious of what they have".

Clark also recalled how Mbari club of the 1960s-1970s "pushed Nigerian art to the world" as a mix of the people's creativity: performiing, literary and visual artists.

Filani, an artist and administrator argued in favour of native contents.  "The quality of training we had, based on our cultural philosophy",  he said, led him and some of his colleagues to "resuscitated motifs and signs that we called Ona". Again, a non-commercial value was the passion. "Then it was just for the love of art, and not money".  

Filani, however acknowledged the fact that art appreciation is changing. He advised for the change in art schools' curriculum to adjust to the reality on ground. "Nigerian collectors are generally knowledgeable. I now realise we should develop curriculum to be more verse and prepare the artists for post-school challenge".

Prof Ugiomoh of the University of Port Harcourt, Rivers State argued that "humanity created art to bring back to the human its essence". But he agreed that the value has changed. "Time has changed; any investment in art is an investment in knowledge". Ugiomoh advised that Nigerian art needs to be globalised

The book, according to one of the authors, Castellote, has the objective "to tell people the tactics of collecting art". The book, he said " is also useful for the artists as a guide".

Ajogwu, a lawyer recalled how him and his co-author disagreed on the business of art. But they found a common space that artists and  collectors have not taken full benefits of their works. Also,  "understanding the sustataiability of art" is as crucial.

Earlier, artist, Olu Ajayi who conducted the event informed the gathering how Nero has been so much involved in art such that "he disagrees that it is an industry, but rather an aspect of humanity that should be treated differently".

Asibelua also noted that Nigeria is blessed with abundant talents. "As a foundation, we have found out that among low income people, there are gold".

The foundation's commitment to the supports of The Arts is well articulated on its website: "From paintings to music,  writing to weaving, we celebrate life through the arts". "The Foundation boats of helping to unleash the potential of every artist through funding, arts promotion, and capacity-building. "With the same passion as our artists, we provide behind-the-scenes support to artists and arts organizations, giving them the power to inspire minds, encourage expression, foster creativity, and have a positive contribution on their economy".

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