Nigerian Contemporary Art Booms And Prices Soar

Nigerian Contemporary Art Booms And Prices Soar
Nigerian author Ben Okri poses with a work of art by Nigerian painter and sculptor Ben Enwonwu entitled ‘Tutu’ on February 07, 2018 at the Bonhams auction house, London. BEN STANSALL / AFP



First, there was Tutu, the “African Mona Lisa” sold last year for 1.5 million dollars.

Then a second portrait by revered Nigerian painter Ben Enwonwu called Christine, sold in mid-October, for 1.4 million dollars.

Both record sales of famous works by the late “father of African modernism”, captured the emergence of Nigeria’s art market.

A decade ago, major African artists were largely absent from international auctions. But the continent is now a major attraction in contemporary and modern art.

Since his death in 1994, Enwonwu’s star has only risen, epitomising the growing industry and value for art.

His two masterpieces were sold by two of London’s most prestigious auction houses, Bonhams and Sotheby’s.

“Africa is one of the fastest-growing markets in the art world today, and Nigeria is equal on the top with South Africa,” Giles Peppiatt, director of African art at Bonhams, told AFP.

His auction house was one of the first in Europe to bet big on the continent with “Africa Now” beginning in 2007, auctioning African art as a stand-alone sale.

In the vibrant commercial capital of Lagos, with 20 million people, its cultural season, awash with literary fashion and art festivals, culminates this weekend with the international fair “ART X”.

Three years after it began, the fair has emerged as one of the premier art events on the continent, exhibiting the rich array of African modern and contemporary art.

The famous Tutu, “lost” for almost 40 years and spectacularly found in 2018, almost by chance, in a London apartment, was the surprise attraction of the last edition, drawing several thousand attendees.

A show-reel of Nollywood’s actresses, traditional leaders, wealthy collectors and artists trooped to the painting of the mysterious Yoruba princess.

At the end of the year, Nigeria’s economic-hub becomes awash with glamour and arts.

In this file photo taken on November 04, 2017 Nigerian artist Queen Nwaneri paints during the Nigeria annual Art X event in Lagos. EMMANUEL AREWA / AFP


Thousands of visitors rush from one exhibition to another, from ART X to the Lagos Biennale of contemporary art, Lagos fashion week and LagosPhoto, all of which take place between October and November.

But alongside the art, is an increasing market and appetite amongst investors and collectors.

New galleries like Art Twenty One have opened in recent years.

And the auction house Art House Contemporary Limited, whose turnover is more modest than that of its European peers, regularly exhibits the most notable artists in the region: Enwonwu, Yusuf Grillo, El Anatsui or Peju Alatise.

Collectors or investors?

This year, some twenty galleries and more than 90 artists will be represented at ART X, with representatives from Tate Modern (London) and Smithsonian (Washington) expected to attend.

Creative audio installations by renowned artist, Emeka Ogboh, based between Berlin and Lagos, will grace the background of the anticipated fourth edition of the fair.

If the appetite for contemporary African art continues to grow, apart from outliers that exceed one million dollars, the majority of works are still sold at “reasonable” prices in comparison with the rest of the world: “between $10,000 and $60,000,” Peppiatt says.

“Events like Art X are changing the game, they enable cities like Lagos to shine and attract many enthusiastic collectors,” he explains. “This is a very exciting moment.”

Nigerian Contemporary Art Booms And Prices Soar
This file photo, taken on November 04, 2017, shows art lovers at the Nigerian annual Art X event in Lagos. EMMANUEL AREWA / AFP


The West African oil giant and largest economy on the continent has a growing middle class of rich bankers and industrialists, with a burgeoning appetite for purchasing contemporary art.

The biggest bids still take place in Europe, where the market is better structured, and better protected against fake works.

Yet collectors increasingly fly to buy works in London or New York and then bring them back to Africa, says Jess Castellote, director of the Yemisi Shyllon Museum of Art, a private museum that will open next year in the suburbs of Lagos.

“There are collectors, art lovers who want to reconnect with their culture, their legacy,” he says, explaining that as well as art enthusiasts, serious investors have taken interest in art.

In Nigeria, as in South Africa, multi-million dollar investment funds have sprung up to acquire works and resell them as dearly as possible, again betting on rising demand for art.

“Rich Nigerians who used to spend 250,000 pounds ($320,000) on a watch or a luxury car now prefer to invest in a painting or a sculpture,” Castellote says.


France To Return 26 Artworks To Benin

This file photo shows the Ato ceremony of the Kingdom of Dahomey, circa 1934 on May 18, 2018 at the Quai Branly Museum-Jacques Chirac in Paris. Photo: GERARD JULIEN / AFP


France’s President Emmanuel Macron agreed Friday to return 26 artworks to Benin “without delay,” his office said.

The decision came as Macron received the findings of a study he had commissioned on returning African treasures held by French museums, a radical policy shift that could put pressure on other former colonial powers.

He proposed gathering African and European partners in Paris next year to define a framework for an “exchange policy” for African artworks.

Macron agreed to return 26 royal statues from the Palaces of Abomey — formerly the capital of the kingdom of Dahomey — that were taken by the French army in 1892 and are now housed at Paris’ Quai Branly museum.

Benin had requested their restitution, and earlier this week welcomed that France had followed the process through to the end.

But Macron’s office said this should not be an isolated or symbolic case.

The president “hopes that all possible circulation of these works are considered: returns but also exhibitions, loans, further cooperation”, the Elysee palace said.

The report he received on Friday proposed legislation be developed to return thousands of African artworks taken during the country’s colonial period, now in French museums, to nations that request them.

There are conditions, however, including a request from the relevant country, precise information about the works’ origins, and the existence of proper facilities such as museums to house the works back in their home country.

Macron also wants “museums to play an essential role in this process”, his office said.

They will be invited to “identify African partners and organise possible returns”.

This file photo shows Funerary crown of the Kingdom of Dahomey dating from 1860-1889, on May 18, 2018, at the Quai Branly Museum-Jacques Chirac in Paris. Photo: GERARD JULIEN / AFP


Museums should quickly establish “an online inventory of their African collections” to allow for searching an item’s provenance, the statement said.

Macron also called for “in-depth work with other European states that retain collections of the same nature acquired in comparable circumstances”.

Calls have been growing in Africa for restitution of artworks, but French law strictly forbids the government from ceding state property, even in well-documented cases of pillaging.

Macron raised hopes in a speech last year in Burkina Faso, saying “Africa’s heritage cannot just be in European private collections and museums.”

He later asked French art historian Benedicte Savoy and Senegalese writer Felwine Sarr to study the matter.

Their report has been welcomed by advocates of the restitution of works which were bought, bartered, or in some cases simply stolen.


Counterculture ‘Burning Man’ Art Takes Washington By Storm

“Paper Arch” by Michael Garlington and Natalia Bertotti is seen during a preview of the “No Spectators: The Art of Burning Man” exhibition at the Renwick Gallery in Washington, DC on March 29, 2018. Mandel NGAN / AFP


Immersive art from a famed desert festival in the American West has swept into Washington, infusing the buttoned-up US capitol with countercultural spirit.

“No Spectators: The Art of Burning Man,” which opens Friday at the Smithsonian’s Renwick Gallery, celebrates the annual late-summer gathering that sees a temporary city of some 75,000 people spring up in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert.

For a single week, massive experiential art installations tower over the dusty metropolis before Burning Manparticipants torch many of the works, including a giant wooden statue of a man, as a ritual embracing decommodification and temporality.

Thought it is perhaps best known for its bacchanalian atmosphere favoring sex and drugs, the annual event that started small in 1986 has evolved into a serious cultural and artistic movement, said the Renwick’s crafts curator Nora Atkinson, who spearheaded the show.

She pushed to welcome the radical art of the desert to the rarefied environment of the museum because “it really stands out from a lot of the work being done in the contemporary art world,” she said.

She also highlighted the freewheeling show’s location just steps from the White House.

“I think it’s really important at times like this — when the world is so cynical, when people are so at odds — that we have this kind of healing force,” she said. “It’s all about empowering people.”

“We build the world that we want to live in.”

– Visual hedonism –

Though it drew comparisons to predecessors including the anarchic Dadaists and large-scale land art movement, Burning Man is a choice destination for techies from neighboring Silicon Valley looking to unwind.

That’s no coincidence, according to Atkinson, who attended her first Burning Man last year.

“The further we get into our digital sphere the more we sort of strive for that humanity around us,” she told AFP at an exhibition preview, standing in the massive, intricate wooden “Temple” installation that encompasses the museum’s cavernous Grand Salon hall.

The show — which follows “The Art of Burning Man” exhibition that went on display at a Virginia museum last year — includes both surviving pieces from past festivals and newly commissioned works.

The visually decadent installations — 14 in the 19th-century era Renwick building and six spilling outdoors into the surrounding neighborhood — featured in the show bridge the worlds of fine art and craft, with a focus on works that make use of reclaimed materials.

“Tin Pan Dragon,” for example, is a dragon-esque vehicle crafted from reclaimed aluminum cookware.

And the 14-foot “Ursa Major” sculpture — one of the several public art pieces installed in the surrounding streets where politicians and lawyers roam — is a grizzly bear fashioned from 170,000 pennies.

– ‘Major’ cultural movement –

Yelena Filipchuk of the duo behind the “HYBYCOZO” installation of large-scale glowing polyhedrons with elaborate laser cut-outs praised the Renwick’s move “to go full on with the interactivity” in line with BurningMan’s participatory ethos.

Translating works from a festival in the expansive, inhospitable desert to a museum setting also offered artists the chance to “create a totally immersive environment” she said, as shadows generated from her geometric sculptures danced on the gallery walls.

For Filipchuk, the show underscores Burning Man’s status as a cultural petri dish but also as an “American institution.”
“It really represents American values, like creativity, freedom, innovation,” she said.

Acclaimed artist Leo Villareal, whose mirrored light installation glitters above the museum’s staircase, sees the normally ephemeral Burning Man’s entrance into the museum world as part of a “major worldwide cultural movement that has taken on a life of its own.”

“I think people are responding in a huge way,” said Villareal, who is working on a large-scale piece in London to light up more than a dozen bridges over the Thames River.

“For the Smithsonian to get behind the ideas of Burning Man and put it in a show like ‘No Spectators’ is truly remarkable.”

Art Exhibition On America’s Race Struggles Opens In London

A new exhibition exploring the American Civil Rights movement and the politics of black identity in the US opened at London’s prestigious Tate modern museum on July 12.

Titled, Soul of a Nation: Art of Black Power, the exhibition also examines the triumphs and tragedies of the civil rights movement in the United States from the 1960’s to 1980’s — at a time when black culture identity was shifting.

Set against a historic background beginning in 1963 with a quarter of a million people marching to the Lincoln Memorial to hear Martin Luther King’s ‘I have a dream’ speech, the exhibition draws on the works of over 60 artists many of them unknown, working during the period.

The exhibition’s 168 artworks encompasses many of the social movements including the Black Power and the Black Panthers aiming to put an end to racial segregation and discrimination.

Painters, sculptors and photographers joined in using their various skills to further the cause of equality.

Dresses and suits designed and made for women on the march by Jae Jarrell, a fashion designer and participant in the Black Arts Movement of the 60s are also on display at the exhibition.

In 1968, Jarrell co-founded AfriCOBRA, the African Commune of Bad Relevant Artists. Taking after her grandfather – a tailor, Jarrell produced garments to inspire African American communities. She describes a female suit created to be worn with comfort at civil rights marches but with a clear message.

“I have the tweed suit – the piece that I call revolutionary suit. It’s a classic tweed with an A-line skirt so that it allows for the movement of the march. I have bell sleeves that accent have that same kind of silhouette as the skirt and that enables you to arm. And We’ve accessorised that tweed suit with a bandolero in Kool-Aid colours,” she added.

Some of the works presented featured some key black figures, who used their platform to speak out against injustices faced by black people at the height of the civil rights movement.

One of them is the famous Andy Warhol’s iconic portrait of boxing legend, Muhammad Ali.

Along with a fearsome reputation as a fighter, Ali spoke out against racism, war and religious intolerance, while projecting an unshakeable confidence that became a model for African-Americans at the height of the civil rights era and beyond.

Other works featured at the gallery may not be well known, but played a role towards reshaping American cultural identity, amid riots and sit-ins.

Many artists became revolutionary activists committed to changing society.

“A number of artists were very active radically, politically, certainly the artists behind me, AfroCobra were deeply committed to making sure that the African American communities in which they lived and worked had access to the art and that was paramount to them. There were others who used their activism to make sure that major mainstream institutions were held to account and started to change their exhibition programmes, their collecting practises. There are a number of people who started a radical commercial gallery. All of these stories kind of swirl and co-exist within the exhibition space,” said exhibition curator, Zoe Whitely.

One of the most compelling works is Curtain by Melvin Edwards, which features barbed wire and nooses – a reminder of slavery, inflicted pain and the fight for freedom.

“To me, anything I do is always African. I don’t break the work up in those other kinds of notions you know… Africa as a place contributed to the history of the world for hundreds of thousands of years. We’re part of it, that through slavery went to the Western hemisphere and anyone who knows or pays attention to the at history understands there are many possibilities and one of them is creativity and we took those abilities with us,” said Edwards.

The exhibition will run until October 22.

Joel Wilson: Movie Scoring Goes Beyond Music, It’s An Art

JoEL Wilson, Music Producer, Movie Score maker, Music, ArtMusic Producer, Joel Wilson is probably responsible for the production of some of Nigeria’s favorite music, as he has received production credits from big name artists within Nigeria and beyond.

The Producer has worked with several musical acts such as: Timi Dakolo, Praise, Onos, Glowreeyah Braimah and even South-African Singer Lulu Dikana.

Raised in a highly musical family, according to Wilson, he always had music around him.

His father was an Anglican choir director while his mom sang in the choir too. His siblings either went into singing, instrumentation or dancing.

Joel’s musical production skills were self-taught; as he developed himself on the job. His first professional work was in South-Africa, when he worked on the album of sonorous singer Lulu Dikana who unfortunately is now late.

Apart from music making, the producer also finds himself creating movie scores, an art he considers almost inevitable. His movie honors include Juliet Audu’s ‘Not Just Married’’

Sharing more on his music production career he said, “music scoring is very similar to film making; however, they are two different worlds”.

“As a movie score person, you are actually a film maker too. You have to know all the timings, bars and frames and know also how to sync”.

According to him, this, however, goes beyond music creation and transcends into art and film. But he says one can be a fantastic movie score person and not be a great music producer.


Channels TV Boss, John Momoh Tasks Africa On Climate Change

Climate ChangeThe Chairman/CEO of Channels Television, Mr John Momoh, has drawn the attention of African leaders to the serious dangers of climate change.

This came as the foremost television station affirmed its commitment to re-directing the mind-set of the government to guarding the environment jealously and reducing air and water pollution.

Mr Momoh spoke at the Transcorp Hotel in Abuja on Saturday during the launch of a joint production of an environmental programme by Channels Television and Deutsche Welle Television called [email protected].

The Chairman/CEO of Channels Television, in his short opening remark, emphasised the importance of putting more effort into protecting the environment from further degeneration.

“We are really excited today that we are expanding our coverage footprints to the subject of environment which we all know is under threat. We are also familiar with the issue of global warming which makes Africa’s future less green.

“Indeed Africa is facing a dramatic increase in air and water pollution, drought and wildlife extinction and unless immediate action is taken to clean up the continent’s environment, its future may be bleak,” he said.

Based on findings by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) that over the next 30 years, growing populations, wars, climate change and the introduction of alien plants and animal species will increase poverty, destroy the environment and spread disease, Mr John Momoh expressed hope that Nigeria’s Minister for Environment, would get the much needed political support of the government and wide engagement of public, private and civil society institutions and the public in general.Eco@Africa-launch-Channels-TV-DW

On the production of [email protected], he said, “This partnership couldn’t have been more timely. It comes at a time when the government is focusing intensely on taking decisive steps towards implementing our environment policy process.

“So we are right on queue with the launch of [email protected] and we are right on queue with DW.

“We at Channels are very proud to be collaborating with DW in this production and together we’ll use the programme to assist in providing direction on the continent’s intended action to address environmental issues affecting its people and the economy.”

The launch follows the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) by the Chairman of Channels Television, Mr John Momoh and DW’s Director General, Peter Limbourg in Paris in 2015.

Also speaking at the launch, the Director-General of Deutsche Welle Television, Mr Peter Limbourg, also expressed hope that the initiative would make a huge impact on Africa and Europe’s efforts on the environment.

He revealed that it was the first time that DW in over 60 years of its existence would produce a magazine with another TV channel in the world with both sides contributing.

He acknowledged the importance of Nigeria in the African continent in terms of its population, culture and wealth of human resources.

Speaking on the collaboration with Channels TV, he said, “What brings us together is that we both have high journalistic standards, we both are professionals and we are dedicated to the subjects; not only selling things, we are interested in the world.”

Meanwhile, Nigeria’s Minister of the Environment, who was represented by Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Environment, Bukar Hassan, said that the federal government has endorsed [email protected]

He said that with partnerships such as Channels TV and DW’s the country would do everything to have a more sustainable environment.

[email protected] will report on innovations and best-practice guidelines in Africa and Europe and will present ideas on environmental protection from all over the world.

It will focus on the preservation of biological diversity, the utilization of national resources, energy sources of tomorrow and the mobility of the future.

The magazine is designed to be interactive; readers will be able to contribute their own ideas by uploading stories, photos and videos to social media.

Channels TV, DW TV Launch Environmental Programme, [email protected]

Eco@AfricaChannels Television in conjunction with Deutsche Welle Television has launched a joint production of an environmental programme called [email protected] at the Transcorp Hotel in Abuja at 6:00pm on Saturday.

[email protected] will report on innovations and best-practice guidelines in Africa and Europe and will present ideas on environmental protection from all over the world.

It will focus on the preservation of biological diversity, the utilization of national resources, energy sources of tomorrow and the mobility of the future.

The magazine is designed to be interactive; readers will be able to contribute their own ideas by uploading stories, photos and videos to social media.

Today’s launch follows the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) by the Chairman of Channels Television, Mr John Momoh and DW’s Director General, Peter Limbourg in Paris last year.

Speaking on our breakfast show, Sunrise this morning, the Director General of DW, Peter Limbourg said that the programme is a massive one and the door is open for countries with like minds.

Join us on Channels TV on Saturdays at 16:30 WAT and on DW on Saturdays at 06:30, 14:30 and 20:30 UTC, Mondays at 11:30 UTC.

The presenter of [email protected] is Nneota Egbe, a graduate of geography, who has spent the past seven years as an anchor, reporter and producer for Channels Television in Lagos, Nigeria.

[email protected] Debuts On Channels Television

Eco@Africa[email protected], a new programme which showcases innovative environmental concepts from Africa and Europe is launching on Channels Television and Deutsche Welle.

Co-produced by Deutsche Welle in Berlin and Channels TV in Nigeria, [email protected] brings together two broadcasters committed to creating a platform to showcase cutting-edge green ideas from their respective continents.

The programme presents innovative and inspiring ideas from the fields of conservation, science, art, mobility and more.

It will also move viewers and users to get on board or launch an environmental project of their own.

Join us on Channels TV on Saturdays at 16:30 WAT and on DW on Saturdays at 06:30, 14:30 and 20:30 UTC, Mondays at 11:30 UTC.

The presenter of [email protected] is Nneota Egbe, a graduate of geography, who has spent the past seven years as an anchor, reporter and producer for Channels Television in Lagos, Nigeria.

He has worked on a variety of different shows covering current affairs, cultural and environmental topics.

He has long been concerned about the environment. As the face of [email protected], he believes it is important to live with an awareness of green issues and strives to ensure his actions help protect our natural world.

He greatly enjoys spending time outdoors, is an avid cook and photographer, and has even been known to turn his hand to making clothes. Besides his television work, he volunteers for several non-governmental and humanitarian organizations.

Channels Book Club: Ehikhamenor, Ezenwankwo Discuss Contents Of Their Books

Melinda Akinlami, Channels Television’s  Art-house  presenter, joins the Channels Book Club to interview gifted visual artist and writer – Victor Ehikhamenor – on his hilarious book ‘Excuse Me!’ and art exploits.

Also on the show is up-coming young creative writer, Amaka Lucy Ezenwankwo.


FG Asks European Nations to Return Stolen Artefacts

The Federal Government has called on European nations in possession of over 3000 artworks believed to have been stolen by British expedition’s personnel during the Benin invasion to return them particularly as the nation prepares to celebrate its centennial anniversary.

The Minister of Tourism, Culture and National Orientation, Edem Duke, made the call at a meeting of Nigerian officials and European museum representatives over the Benin bronzes in European museums.

Countries like Germany, Denmark, Italy, and the United States of America had at various times returned artefacts to their original owners and expressed optimism that Britain would also do same to Nigeria.