By McPhilips Nwachukwu
The Nigerian visual art scene is no doubt witnessing interesting times: Apart from the fact that deepened concern has become the lot of the visual art market following global economic recession in the last couple of years, confidence and concern have taken over stakeholders in the emerging market in Nigeria, who are also seriously to evolving other engaging ways with which to sustain the tempo of this market through proper archiving, scholarship and financing.
To this end, the emergence of Pan African University and the Art Exchange Limited in the scene becomes a very defining moment in the nation’s journey in mapping the appropriate intellectual and economic path for the visual art sub sector of the national economy.
Marriage of art
Given the level of interest that is now being generated in African art and especially in Nigerian art following commanding sales of the country’s art both in Europe and Nigeria, it becomes very important that buyers, creators, collectors and buyers have access to proper directory on the products of their interest.The two Lagos based institutions: one, an academic institution of excellence and the other, some kind of art broker came together to establish and finance the first of its kind virtual art museum, an on line gallery, that is designed to archiving and displaying works of contemporary Nigerian artists from the father of Nigerian contemporary art Aina Onabolu till date.
Added to this need, is the imperative of having a professional broker like Art Exchange, which has knowledge of the market and is in a position, to educate and enlightening probable art entrepreneurs and investors on how and where to invest their money.
In a meeting at the Victoria Island campus of the Pan African University last week, representatives of Pan African University, Virtual Museum of Modern Nigerian Art, VMMNA and Art Exchange Limited comprising; Dr Chidi Nwagu, Arch. Jess Castellote and Abimbola Phillips explained to Vanguard Arts the imperatives of building a sustainable and reliable on line museum of Nigerian art to serve as a window to the world on the immense potentials of Nigerian art resources.
According to the partners, “the museum is a unique, interactive, searchable website that enables users to view Nigerian art from the beginning of the twentieth century, adding that “. it provides information about artists, schools and styles.”
According to Castellote, the Director of the online virtual museum, the idea behind the establishment of the platform is not “ structured around any artistic credo. Nor is it the duty of the museum to provide assessment of the works and their creators, but, we are concerned with achieving and the projection of works and their creators as educational resource materials.”
This platform, continued, Castellote will further “provide scholars and researchers of Nigerian art with dependable online data and background information on the artists of their choice.” He regretted that till now, the only reliable data on and about African art is still domiciled in Europe and therefore argued that” nobody tells another person’s story better than the person.”
Currently, over 600 works of art by 95 artists are on display and more being added. However, it was further revealed that “ many of these works have never been seen by the general public nor properly documented in general or specified publications.”
It is believed that the establishment of the online museum, will not only help to enhance the market advantage of the visual arts, but will go a long way in serving “ as an educational resource material that will contribute to the dissemination of knowledge on modern Nigerian art and artists among the widest possible audience.”