National Arts Theatre

Is The Gallery System Overrated?
At ArtX 2017, the art fair in Lagos several weeks ago, the painter Rom Isichei had his works exhibited in a stand he “rented” all on his own. So did Lekan Ogunbanwo, Oluseye Ogunlesi and Polly Alakija. But Isichei’s stand drew a certain curiosity because of his place in the business of art in the city. His paintings are some of the most prized pieces at Nigerian auctions in the last five years.

Has Isichei evaluated himself and decided he no longer needed a gallery to represent him? Was he opting out of the gallery system? The question was prompted by a report in this week’s edition of the New Yorker, which trashed the prevailing narrative that the artist Damian Hirst, arrowhead of the Young British Artists, who emerged in the 1990s, was down on his luck. Felix Salmon’s article challenged observations by The Economist’s Sarah Thornton and The New York Times’ Robin Pogebrin that Hirst had become a persona non grata in the art world, stripped of his relevance and power.

Salmon testified that since Hirst auctioned off two hundred million dollars’ worth of art, fresh from his studio, at Sotheby’s, bypassing dealers entirely, in 2008, he had dumped the gallery system and now sells his own art directly to a certain kind of collector type, who unlike many, would rather want to keep the art, than use them as investment by selling at auctions. Sales from Mr. Hirsts’ “latest show, in Venice, reached a jaw-dropping three hundred and thirty million dollars as of early November (2017)”, Mr. Salmon reported. Damian Hirst is reportedly no longer interested in the “real estate market mirroring” of the gallery-auction house establishment. “Hirst moved out of the world of commodities, which are bought and sold speculatively with a profit motive, and moved into the world of luxury goods, which are bought to be consumed and enjoyed”, Salmon wrote. So, does Nigeria’s Isichei want to go on his own? “No I’m not by-passing the gallery structure by showing solo at the last ArtX Lagos”, he replies over email. “I will enumerate more when we see”. This column has a studio visit with Isichei this week. Watch this space for some skit of a report.

Onobrakpeya: The Patriarch Lifts the Trophy
The Visual Printmakers Association of Nigeria VPAN yesterday honoured Bruce Onobrakpeya, the nation’s patriarch of contemporary art, for lifting the 2017 National Order of Merit Award in the Humanities. A lavish party, attended by over 150 guests, held at the Resource Place in Badagry Street, Ikeja and doubled as the launch of the VPAN’s maiden touring Exhibition. Onobrakpeya, 85, is a key member of the “Zarianists”, the 1950s era group of painting students at the College of Arts and Science in Zaria who, 60 years ago, “rebelled” against the Eurocentric curriculum of the school’s fine art department and launched the concept of natural synthesis. The philosophical underpinning of their art practice provided the direction for how contemporary art has evolved in Nigeria. VPAN’s “Celebration of Onobrakpeya”, as the event was called, also featured a gallery talk by the painter/art historian Kunle Filani.

Now, again, the Cinema Is Outdoors
Lagos, Kaduna and Kano in the early 60s and 70s had many Cinemas that were, yes, walled in, but of which a large part was open. Neighbours who lived on storey buildings could watch free movies right from their balconies. The experience, especially from floors higher than the third, felt like watching movies in the sky. Magic. The Committee for Relevant Art (CORA) tried to bring that magical experience to the wider public in the early 2000s, at a time when Nollywood had not yet broken into the emerging, new age, cinema houses in the city. The programme was called The Cinema Carnival and it was powered by Tunde Kelani’s Mainframe. A large screen was set up right in the garden of the premises of the National Theatre, but the atmosphere was rather far more prosaic than the organisers hoped it would be.

And then, for lack of funding and serious commitment, the Cinema Carnival died off. Now some organisation is revisiting this concept. DD Ideation wants us to “imagine a local park on a warm night, mild breeze drifting through the trees and a throng of people sprawled out on the grass or chairs, gathered beneath the stars to share the experience of watching a great movie in a glorious outdoor setting”. Christened “The Breeze Outdoor” Cinema, the organisers promise that “viewers get all the things we love about going to the movies and more– popcorn, shawarma, asun, grills, barbeque, a great flick, hanging out with friends – plus the enjoyment of sitting in the great outdoors on a cool night”. Every evening from December 27 to 31 on the TV Continental grounds in Ikosi, in the northern fringe of Lagos, the outdoor cinema will feature, apart from movies, music, comedy, karaoke and games. “It aims to create an interesting and interactive community-based activity that will get people out of their homes to spend time with family, friends and network with other people”.

Calendar; The French Host Boomy TII..Wizkid On The Beach.. Freedom Park Presents Peppersoup
The Alliance Française Lagos opened, yesterday, “Extend View / Plan Large”, an exhibition featuring a collection of photographs by BOOMY TII. The French language centre describes the artist, who specialises in landscape and fashion photography, as “an enigmatic wonderer” and invited the public to “accompany her on a journey to capture the world through her ‘appareil photo’”. The show runs until January 14, 2018, at the centre’s Herbert Macaulay Street station, in Yaba, Lagos.

This evening at Hard Rock Beach, the top hip musician Wizkid will be headlining a concert titled Wiz on the Beach, featuring himself, Tiwa Savage, Mr. Eazi, Wande Coal and others. The show starts at 3pm. Wizkid, who just won the best international artist prize at the Mobo awards in London, will be quite busy this Yuletide. He has a Solo live concert at the Transcorp Hotel in Abuja on December 16 and will feature in the Pepsi Rhythm Unplugged at the Eko Hotel on December 22, with Davido, Olamide, Tiwa Savage, Runtown and others. This evening at the Freedom Park, the cultural hub of Lagos City, Oxzygen Concepts delivers its last performance of Elechi Amadi’s play Peppersoup, from 7pm. Rounding off the Christmas festivities, musically, is One Night Stand With Adekunle Gold (ONSWAG) on December 26 at the Federal Palace.
• Compiled by staff of Festac News Agency

In this article:
Toyin Akinosho
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