Commenced in 2012, the World Art Day is celebrated every April 15, a period chosen in honour of one of the greatest artists ever lived, Leonardo da Vinci, born same day. However, the event did not get formal attention of UNESCO until last year. At the 40th session of UNESCO’s General Conference, 2019, World Art Day, was recognised and proclaimed as "a celebration to promote the development, diffusion and enjoyment of art."
And for the first time, UNESCO, got involved with the 2020 celebration. From 2-4 p.m on Wednesday, April 15, a virtual event themed ResiliArt, which featured debate over the challenges faced by artists was launched by UNESCO. Audrey Azoulay, UNESCO Director-General who launched ResiliArt stated: "Our Organization would thus like to pay tribute to the solidarity shown by artists and institutions at a time when art is suffering the full force of the effects of a global health, economic and social crisis."
The ResiliArt forum, according to UNESCO, raises awareness about the far-reaching ramification of COVID-19 across the sector and aims at supporting artists during the crisis. The inaugural debate, organised in partnership with International Confederation of Societies of Authors and Composers (CISAC), opened by Azoulay, however expanded its scope to include other professionals in the culture sectors from across the world. The debate featured Ernesto Ottone, (UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Culture); Jean Michel Jarre, (Composer, performer, CISAC President and UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador); Yasmina Khadra, (Author); Deeyah Khan, (Musician, documentary film director and UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador); Angélique Kidjo, (Singer-songwriter; CISAC Vice-President and UNICEF International Ambassador), Nina Obuljen-Korzinek, (Minister of Culture of Croatia; and Luis Puenzo, Film director, screenwriter, producer and President of INCAA.
For artists in Nigeria, particularly Lagos the country's art hub, there was no space to celebrate World Art Day 2020 as the city had an extended lockdown given by government to curtail the spread of covid-19. Perhaps, the day provided an opportunity to reflect on art in global economics and social relevance, even in a period of challenges brought by covid-19.
"As the world retracts socially and economically due to the rampaging coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, one may want to make the assertion that artists and the creative industry will most likely be hit hardest as social networking and general human interactions grind to a halt," said Sam Ebohon, President, Guild of Professional Fine Artists of Nigeria (GFA). "This may not be so, ﬁne art being an industry which is dependent not on many scientiﬁc assumptions but actually thrives on the emotional and spiritual dispositions either of the artist or that of the art enthusiastsa andcollectors."
Ebohon agreed that collection, in commercial context will drop "drastically" as global economy surrenders to the ongoing crisis. He however argued that "art
appreciation will remain the
same." The occasion of the World Art Day 2020, he added, should inspire artists to diffuse the covid-19 effect on creativity and get more busy producing works. "Many artists will use the opportunity created by the lockdown to go deeper and make more works which even though cannot be shown in exhibitions will ﬁnd their audience in social media through internet which so far is not affected by the virus."
In launching ResiliArt, UNESCO urged culture professionals to join the movement and replicate the platform in their respective regions with thematic focus. In Nigeria, Ebohon explained that art as a veritable source of socialization will not be the same again. "There is a value
chain attached to the eventual sale of any artwork," of which he said would be dislocated. "For instance, galleries, printmaking industries, framers and auction houses, among others, will be drastically affected and job losses come with it."
Whateverh happens the resilience strength of art, as proclaimed in the ResiliArt theme, he assured, will triumph at the end of the tunnel. "I can bet that the art and the creative industry as
a whole will be the ﬁrst to recover from the downturn
caused by Covid-19 as people will seek to quickly forget the sadness and depression of the past and lean on to the therapeutic effects of art."
UNESCO noted that each year of World Art Day celebration helps to strengthen "the links between artistic creations and society."
The spirit of the celebration, said the world body, encourages greater awarenes of the diversity of artistic expressions and highlight the contribution of artists to sustainable development.
Excerpts from UNESCO's recognition of World Art Day:
"There is much to learn, share and celebrate on World Art Day, and UNESCO encourages everyone to join in through various activities such as debates, conferences, workshops, cultural events and presentations or exhibitions."