Recently, a host of art enthusiasts and entrepreneurs gathered at Coronation Art Gallery on Amodu Ojikutu Street, Victoria Island, Lagos for the facility’s launch, as well as its opening show titled, When art is a big deal.
Curated by Ugomma Adegoke, the works on display were in tandem with the gallery’s vision of making high quality African art more accessible to the public and to encourage artists, collectors, connoisseurs and aficionados to share their collections for the appreciation of the host community.
The first collection of works to grace Coronation’s massive space were a survey exhibition of works by artists, who represent the zeitgeist of contemporary African artworks, carefully excerpted from the generously loaned collection of banker, investor and art patron Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede.
While majority of the works are paintings, the inclusion of sculpture and works on paper points to a broadening of media that is based on personal interest in arts making and kingship with the artists’ intellectual ambition. Artists from Nigeria are well represented in addition to practitioners from South Africa, Ghana and Uganda in a growing list that, in the future, will include the wealth of art production across the continent.
Bunmi Agusto’s triptych, Longer Throat, is a striking combination of human figures and abstracted patterns from aso oke, the woven cloth that is traditional to Yoruba people spread across West Africa.
Agusto’s modernist retooling of ancient practices hybrids the art of painting and the craft of weaving into a foremost 21st century medium. Drawing inspiration from post impressionism and its 20th century interpretations, Fauvists (France), the Scottish colourists (Scotland), the Kapists (Poland), and colour field painters (U.S.), artists like Deborah Segun, Ndidi Emefiele and Henry Mzili Mujungu continue to reinvent preoccupation with colour through highly individualised idioms.
This collector on a mission, has no doubt been greatly spurred by his early and unique immersion into African and international cultures and personal engagement with Nigeria’s greatest artworks and artists including the late Ben Enwonwu (who he knew as a child), Aina Onabolu, Yusuf Grillo, Obiora Udenchukwu, Uche Okeke, and El-Anatsui to mention a few.
Oyewole Omofemi’s nine paintings of African-American George Flyod show considerable relevance for his death in 2020 and subsequent international campaigns against state-sanctioned violence.
This examination of black figuration and attendant factors of representation and visibility are continued in paintings by Tonia Nneji, Manyaku Mashilo, Abe Obedina, Otis Kwame Kye Quaicoe and others.
The enduring preference for oil and acrylic among painting is emphasised in the exhibition. Less so, but equally important, are the divergent preference for other media that include wrought iron, fibre glass, charcoal, graphite and digital print.
The ongoing show is a testament to the culture of arts collection that is long established and championed by lovers of beauty, culture, and excellence.
Commenting on the exotic space, Aig-Imoukhuede said, “in every Coronation building, they have a gallery space where they exhibit the art collection of some of their customers and stakeholders like me. I am the first person whose works are viewed today. A number of the collectors that are here today agree with Coronation and me that they will be next, so to speak.”
The Managing Director, Coronation Merchant Bank, Banjo Adegbohungbe, said that the vision is for people to be impacted by rare pieces that capture Africa’s culture, creativity, richness and talent.
According to Adegbohungbe, “The vision of Coronation is a continent transformed through our products and solutions, we are transforming the African continent one product and one innovation at a time and we are doing the same thing for the artistic community. We are creating a platform where they can share and showcase their innovative and creativity throughout the continent. Virtually to reach as many as possible and change the perception of the continent.”