BY TAJUDEEN SOWOLE
Works of art masters – living and departed – as well as those of some upcoming artists will be displayed for sale at the Civic Centre, Victoria Island, Lagos, tomorrow.
Three editions back, Kavita Chellaram, the lady behind the auction event, had through the outfit, Arthouse Contemporary, unearthed treasures of contemporary Nigerian art beyond imagination: April 2008, a total sale of N76 million; November 2008, N93 million; and April 2009, N67 million.
Against high expectation, the event failed to hold in November last year due to what Chellaram described as personal as well as other factors.
With its past impressive outings, the stake is apparently getting higher with uncommon collectors joining the list. And to avoid impersonation and art theft, she says, “we don’t just accept any work on the strength of the name of the artist; we have a team of experts, who verify the authenticity of all works.”
DESPITE criticisms from some sections of the art that the auction should strictly be for master artists, Chellaram insists on giving every artist an opportunity to showcase his or her works as a way of developing Nigerian art.
Owing to this, works of masters such as Ben Enwonwu, Bruce Onobrakpeya, Abayomi Barber, Uche Okeke, Bisi Fakeye and Kolade Oshinowo and others will be featured alongside that of younger artists in the public sale. Expected to compete for space are Peju Alatishe’ Untitled (2009, acrylic on canvas, 52 x 52 in.); Rom Isichei’s Roses (2007, oil on board 25 x 36 in.); Diseye Tantua’s Merry Go Round (2009, acrylic on canvas, 35.625 x 48 in.); Nnenna Okore’s Bark And Fiber1 (2009, clay and burlap 47 x 45 in.)
At the maiden edition, works of Richardson Ovbiebo, graduate of Yaba College of Technology, (Yabatech), Yaba, Lagos, was among those that made impressive sales.
English auctioneer, John Dabney, who conducted the last three events, is also expected to fly in for this auction.
Chellaram says, “this year’s auction is expected to generate more interest in the ‘Zaria School’ because of the works of the late Gani Odutokun, Jerry Buhari and some of their younger contemporaries, which will be prominent.”
In fact, Odutokun’s work, untitled oil on board, lot 037 is the cover of the catalogue. Also included in the list, she adds, are “celebrated groups associated with Nsukka, Osogbo and Lagos art scene during the 60s and 70s.”
Aside the megabucks, Chellaram declared last year that the sale would be a reference point in Africa. Shortly before opening of the preview on Friday, she made good that commitment by showcasing the works of artists from Ghana and Kenya. Some of the works, she explains “were either sent in by collectors or artists from these countries.” Foreign artists whose works would be among those to be sold include Ghanaians Ablade Glover, Amon Kotei, Ato Delaquis, George Hughes, Kofi Agosor; and Kenyan, Peter Elungat.
CHELLARAM’S interest in art started as a mere collector several years ago, until it grew into a bigger vision. “The public nature of the event allows for greater transparency of pricing and wider exposure of the art to a broad and global audience,” she argues.
About 100 works were on display at the venue yesterday as part of the two-day preview ahead of the actual sale.