|Two of the five artists, Lekan Onabanjo and Wallace Ejoh with Sitter, Modupe Ogunlesi in the background during the Life Drawing event... recently.|
AS a medium in documenting events and celebrating iconic individuals, Art strengthened its core value, recently, in Lagos.
Olu Ajayi, Osagie Osazuwa, Duke Asidere, Lekan Onabanjo and Wallace Ejoh flagged off the 70th birthday celebration of gallerist and CEO of Adam&Eve, Mrs Modupe Ogunlesi. The Life Drawing took place at Adam&Eve, a parent outfit of The Content Art Gallery, at 8 Issac John Street, GRA, Ikeja, Lagos.
Traditionally, life drawing is a formal exercise as component of state functions in most parts of the world. As soon as a new administration takes office in most parts of the world, an artist is chosen to do a portrait of the new head of government. In fact, the spot of Art in the history of Nigeria used to enjoy deliberate attention of governments during the first Republic. Please note: I mean Art, not Arts or art and culture as a sector together.
The attention given to Art then was so important such that late Ben Enwonwu (1917-1994) got appointment as Adviser to the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Also, the then Western Region Government led by the Premier, Obafemi Awolowo took interest in artist, Abayomi Barber (1928-2021) as a resource person in art. Barber was given scholarship, by the then Western Region government, to the U.K to study Art from 1960-1962. Sadly, over the decades of post-independence, the culture of getting heads of governments – across different levels – to sit for artists were eroded by long history of military rule.
For the artists who had Mrs Ogunlesi as a sitter on the eve of the latter's 70th birthday, the attraction was her exceptional strides. From the exquisite accessories of living rooms, to the therapeutic radiance of beddings as well as royal culinary settings and premium tastes in bathroom contents, Mrs Ogunlesi's Adam&Eve has brought class and grandeur into the business of luxury items and lifestyle. And as five master artists documented Mrs Ogunlesi on canvas, the history of her lifetime as well as passion for excellence are further enriched for the knowledge of posterity.
The traditional chemistry that connects artists and their sitters was created to celebrate Mrs Ogunlesi shortly before a party for the general public. And at the party event, later in the evening, the drawings created by the artists were put on auction. The proceeds of the auction were aimed for charity obligations.
Every lifetime worth celebrating stands for something, irrespective of values and virtues of the individual. Whatever we stand for in our lifetime, history hardly forgets.
Boosting that culture of celebrating people whose lifetime have added values to the world is Mrs Ogunlesi's 70th birthday celebration. Mrs Ogunlesi, an entrepreneur whose career in lifestyle and luxury items has contributed to Nigeria's socio-economic space of the past twenty years, is also a resource personality in humanity knowledge.
Mrs Ogunlesi's path with art did not start as a coincidence, but a deliberate passion that generated The Content Art Gallery within the Adam&Eve complex. In her well established passion of blazing trails, Mrs Ogunlesi, in 2017, had Adam&Eve made a debut art exhibition titled The Content. The maiden exhibition, which some observers argued "was the first of its kind within the Ikeja axis in the 21st century Nigerian art appreciation space," had works of master printmaker, Dr Bruce Onobrakpeya, Kolade Oshinowo, Raqib Bashorun, Lekan Onabanjo, Tola Wewe, Duke Asidere, Alex Nwokolo, Zinno Orara and Fidelis Odogwu on display.
"My customers had to be lovers of gifts," Mrs Ogunlesi told participants during the Life Drawing event. "For instance, you can get a plate anywhere, but the plates here are a bit special because of the way they are made and for their beauty."
And in the past few years of The Content concept, she explained how Adam&Eve has generated its own breed of art collectors outside the regular art appreciation space. "These are not going to be your usual collectors," she noted. Art lovers who buy from The Content Art Gallery, Mrs Ogunlesi disclosed, are not the established collectors; "they are just lovers of beauty." However, between 2017 and currently, Mrs Ogunlesi's deliberate footprints on the art appreciation landscape has grown with at least one exhibition, yearly, adding to Nigeria's fledging art economy.
In summary, Eve of 70 Life Drawing experience was a celebration of culture, humanity, tradition, premium taste, entrepreneurial skills and corporate governance, all crocheted in Mrs Modupe Ogunlesi's Lifetime.
-Tajudeen Sowole is a Lagos-based writer on The Arts.