Friday 5 November 2021

Unfolding Nigerian art economy in era of The Content exhibitions

'Bed Time Blues' (30 X 40"), by Lekan Onabanjo

WHEN The Content: Harmattan Edition made its debut in 2017, freshness in art presentation and appreciation was established. The debut exhibition unearthed the potential of art patronage outside the Lagos and Victoria Island hubs.

Currently back with The Content: 2nd Harmattan Edition, showing from November's 5-December 12, 2021 at Adam&Eve, 8, Issac John, G.R.A, Ikeja, Lagos, it keeps expanding the scope of the Lagos hub and Africa's largest art economy. The volume of art sales, yearly, in Lagos, within and outside the formal spaces of galleries, auction houses and artists' studios, positions the city as a leading hub in Africa. On and off exhibitions, even in its few years of existence, The Content has been contributing to the flexing. Nigerian art economy  from the Adam&Eve space. 

It's no coincidence or fluke that The Content is fast becoming the premium space to present and appreciate art. Reason: the Adam&Eve brand, as organisers of the exhibitions, has been tested and trusted in luxury collection for over two decades.

As Nigeria's art economy is gradually recovering from the slowdown of Covid-19 pandemic, the third and fourth quarters of 2021 are crucial for visual artists, galleries and dealers. The Nigerian art market is a residual reflection of the mainstream economic indexes of the country. 

The slow recovery of the Nigerian economy has recorded a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth by 0.51% in Q1 and 5.01% for Q2 of 2021, according to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS). Economists have also predicted an increase for Q3 and Q4, particularly for goods and services, leisure and luxury collections inclusive. 

Yes, the oil/gas, manufacturing, finance and telecommunication sectors were the captured indices, but leiaure, hospitality and the creative economies benefitted from the captured growth of Q1 and Q2. The creative industry benefitted based on the trickled down values to the people in general. 

Specifically for the art economy, the days of 'bounty harvest 'are here. Artists, in the last one and half years, have poured out their hearts onto the canvas — angered or inspired by socio-economic situations globally —  and, individually, created 'best' of art ever from their studios.

Traces of the Nigerian art economy bouncing back along with the real sectors has been confirmed. As a professional in the field of promoting and evaluating art practice, I have observed an unexpected increaae in the number of art exhibitions in Lagos from Q1-Q3 of 2021. Does increase in  numerical strength of exhibitions translate to a buoyant art economy?  Yes, most likely, it does. For examples, some galleries, among the active ones, had three shows back-to-back within a period of three months.  Each of the shows, according to findings recorded 'good sales'. In fact some "sold out on the opening ."

For The Content: 2nd Harmattan Edition, the exhibiting artists have merited their spots in the gathering, based on the individual's tested signature and the current energy in creativity  Hamid Ibrahim, Wande George, Segun Aiyesan,  Clara Aden, Emeka Nwagbara and Elizabeth Ekpetorson are being joined by guest artists Dr Bruce Onobrakpeya and Lekan Onabanjo. Curated by Onabanjo, the exhibition displays artists of diverse contents; they have nothing in common, which provides windows for broad appreciation.

Ibrahim brings his strokes in basic fine art rules into the exhibition. Either in compositional skills or vibrant application of basic colours, Ibrahim makes his canvas exciting. 

 His works for the show include 'Mind Field' (50x48 inches), 'Juat For You' (28x38 inches), 'Sisters' (40x50 inches) and 'Seeking Energy' (48x50 inches).

Aiyesan, an artist whose mastery of texturiaed canvas is his signature brings colorful narration to Yoruba native cap known as Abeti Aja (acrylic and cretextura on canvas, 4x4 ft  2021).  Aiyesan captures the poetic part of a dog's ears (eti Aja) from which the native cap derives its identity more in colorful green, separate from the entire head wear.

Other paintings by Aiyesan, in acrylic and cretextura on canvas for the exhibition include Bearer of Tales (5x4 ft, 2021), Sky God (4x4 ft,, 2021), Blind Prejudice (4x4 ft, 2021) , Modern Woman (5x4 ft, 2021) and Man of Steel (5x4 ft, 2020).

Wande George keeps reminding community of art connoisseurs about the strength in visual communicating skills of which the artist has mastered, in his over two decades as brand visualiaer. That much of skills, blend with his mainstream art experience strengthens the 2021 edition of The Content: 2nd Harmattan Edition with his works such as Ying Yang -Made for Each Other - (acrylic on canvas 24ins x 24ins), Tender Love (acrylic on canvas, 36 x 36ins), Come Wall With Me (acrylic & oil on canvas, 3,2ins x 40ins), Every Day (acrylic & oil on canvas 32ins x 40ins) and Red Wine (acrylic on canvas 36ins x 36ins).

Whatever keeps making monochrome, specifically black and white textures, the favourite collection of some people, Clara Aden knows the secret. As an artist whose monochrome identity has endured across medium such as charcoal, acrylic and pastel,  Aden brings into the exhibition about two decades experience in that area of specialisation. Among such pieces are  See Wetin l Carry (charcoal on canvas 36in x 24in, 2021) and Dignity in Labour (charcoal and acrylic paint on canvas 30in x 30in, 2021). 

The artiat's black and white works are not as a result of lack of proficiency in handling colour painting, so explain  works such as Debbie baby doll (Oil on canvas 30x 30in 2021) and Caring and Capable (oil and gold leaf on canvas 17 x 24in, 2021).

Emeka Nwagbara's palette of loud and conservative colours also comes with both expressionistic and realism paintings in the five pieces for the show. Among such works is  Family Circle (acrylic on canvas, 40 x 5 (inches, dated: 2021), which is expressed in depth of stylised facial kind.  He is also showing 

Elizabeth Ekpetorson's brush movements on canvas are  unpretentiously bold, in figurative forms. She flaunts her skills in using lines to create pieces that celebrate the basic rules in art creation.

This much she expresses in “The Epistemophile III (acrylic and charcoal on canvas, 60x 48inch,  2021) and  “indefatigable, (acrylic and charcoal on canvas, 60x 48inch, 2021). For her other works such as Duality of Nature VI (acrylic and charcoal on canvas, 60x 48inch, 2021) and Duality of Nature VII (acrylic and charcoal on canvas, 60x 48inches, 2021), the artist texturises, in colour, her impre- ssonistic technique. 

Master printmaker, Onobrakpeya's works in the exhibition represent the resilience of the Nigerian art environment. Similarly, Onabanjo, art artist whose career is sandwiched by the old masters and emerging artists, escalates his mastery of painting with  linear technique. 

In collecting art for either passion, commercial or financial security, recent experience has shown that virtual appreciation cannot replace live or physical viewing. During the lockdown occasioned by the Covid-19 pandemic, art fairs, galleries and auction houses across the world experimented with virtual shows, but the results were not exactly encouraging. The lesson: presenting art exhibition in a gallery space should not be taken for granted. Also, appreciating art by visiting the gallery deserves commendations too.

And in the spirit of collectivity of creating, presenting and appreciating art, The Content: 2nd Harmattan Edition welcomes all to Adam&Eve where art seduces luxury design collection.

(Published as New phase of Nigerian art economy in era of The Content exhibitions for catalogue of The Content: 2nd Harmattan Edition).

-Tajudeen Sowole is a Lagos-based Art Advisor.

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