By Njideka Agbo
May 29, 2022 | 6:39
Art is life. But then, how do you describe life in the context of creativity? Despite his many philosophies, one word that would resonate with his many responses would undoubtedly be heat. If you asked an art lover the same question, they would probably describe it as the burst of color that lights up the…
Art is life. But then, how do you describe life in the context of creativity?
Despite his many philosophies, one word that would resonate with his many responses would undoubtedly be heat. If you were to ask an art lover the same question, they would probably describe it as the burst of colors that brighten up the environment, it’s the greenery that gives the sweet musky smell we crave in the dry season, it’s the different moods of the seasons, it’s the abstract forms that appeal to the aesthetic senses, it’s the inspiration behind every stroke of the pen.
With the bustling ancient cities of Badagry, Calabar and the Nok districts of Nigeria’s Middle Belts, among several others serving as home to some of the world’s finest finds, it is also the birthplace of some of the world’s greatest artists. humanity such as Ben Enwonwu, Yusuf Grillo and Dr Bruce Onobrakpeya. With his gifts, modern African art through the appropriate representation of African cultural aesthetics has been appreciated. No wonder Enwonwu once said, “European artists like Picasso, Braque and Vlaminck were influenced by African art… I knew Giacometti personally in England, you know. I knew he was influenced by African sculptures. But I would not be influenced by Giacometti, because he was influenced by my ancestors”.
Perhaps the summation of life as defined by art lies in its appreciation. As addictive as art appreciation is, collectors are more often than not very possessive of their collection. And when collections are made up of non-commercial interests, they become even more private.
However, the beauty of art appreciation takes on almost infinite value when collectors share their collections with the “extended family” of an art-loving community. It takes a great depth of artistic philanthropy for a collector to share private collections with the general public. For Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede, it was a double feat on May 13, 2022 when it came to sharing his passion: some of his private collections were exhibited to the public just as the event also served to launch Coronation Gallery, Victoria, Island, Lagos.
The new gallery, of all indications, has been conceptualized to broaden the appreciation of art, through the perspectives of collectors. With Aig-Imoukhuede’s collections presented as “When Art is a Big Deal”, the exhibition gives others the passion for art collecting to share their artistic habits with the general public. Enthused by the response from the Lagos art-loving community at the opening, Aig-Imoukhuede assured that more collectors would exhibit at the Coronation Gallery.
“I want to democratize the appreciation of art, I want to democratize the love of art, I want to democratize access to art. Just as Coronation seeks to democratize wealth creation. The only way to do that is to bring the art to… the man in the street,” says Aig-Imoukhuede.
As well as creating windows into the vastness of artists’ studios, the Coronation Gallery’s concept of showing private pieces from collectors will also, in particular, broaden the public’s knowledge of provenance. Being the most crucial aspect of art appreciation, provenance connects art lovers, especially historians, to iconic works of art, the traces of which have been lost or the details of which are not known. not clear.
The artworks on display focused on contemporary art, offering an in-depth knowledge of how artists, through skills, styles and techniques in Africa, continue to evolve. From Oluwole Omofemi’s portrait print of the tragic George Floyd to Deborah Segun’s expressionist “Feeling Needed” texture as well as Tonia Nneji’s bold figurative painting “Why Should I Follow”, the exhibition provided insight into the emerging energy of the contemporary art space in Africa.
The depth of art as a medium for recording memories is affirmed in Omofemi’s George Floyd (oil on canvas and dated 2020) as the artist, in nine identical compartmentalized pieces, each with a sealed mouth , speaks in volume with the different shades. Far from the recurring tragedies that continue to plague the mental well-being of people across the world, change and respite occur in the naturalistic paintings of Ugandan artist Henry Mzili Mujunga. In each of the paintings titled “Children Through Plants” and “Life Through Plants,” an artist’s skill uses hues and shades to release the beauty of nature in a troubled world.
Interestingly, despite having the resources to show modernists like Yusuf Grillo, Ben Enwonwu MBE, among others among its patron’s extensive collections, Coronation Gallery chose to largely exhibit contemporary artists. The curator of the exhibition, Ugoma Ebilah, noted how Aig-Imoukhuede has been a keen observer of the contemporary art space across Africa. The curator argued that the passion of the patron who connects well with the unfolding energy of contemporaneity on the continent “is notably and increasingly present in his bold, verdant, adroit and hopeful collection”.
Although Aig-Imoukhuede is known to the public as one of Africa’s most successful financial market leaders, many are aware of a passion he has had since he was 5 years old. Born into a home of art enthusiasts, his mother, a curator and gallerist and his father, an intellectual and central civil servant in the Ministry of Culture during Nigeria’s post-independence period, and a relationship with Ben Enwonwu MBE, the passion d’Aig-Imoukhuede for art was wet and at age 5 he collected his first art.
Its refined taste becomes evident once you enter the space that has now become the home of this collection.
For Coronation Gallery, taking off on a solid base from a passionate patron was a privilege. The gallery clarified that the works on display came from the generous loan of Aig-Imoukhuede. Perhaps the wealth of pieces on display at its first exhibition promises great anticipation from the gallery at subsequent exhibitions, especially since there will be gallery space in each Coronation building.
“While the majority of works are paintings, the inclusion of sculpture and works on paper indicates a broadening of media based on personal interests in artistic creation and kinship with the intellectual ambition of artists,” explained Coronation. “Nigerian artists are well represented in addition to practitioners from South Africa, Ghana and Uganda in a growing list which in the future will include the wealth of artistic production across the continent.”
A welcome insight for other art collectors, this will also see that art, uniquely defined by Africans, is expressed and presented to the world.
As Peju Alatise once said, “…the art of Africa still remains largely scorched by the negative social, political and economic realities of its mother continent, therefore, cannot be judged on its own merit. and without negative prejudice or condescending patronage.However, Africans must take responsibility for projecting their own art and learn to value it as one of their greatest cultural exports.
Anyone can experience a virtual tour of the gallery by visiting this link
MAGAZINE DESIGN: PHILIP CHIME