Stakeholders at the formal opening of a gallery by the Guild of Fine Artists of Nigeria, GFA, have lamented that Federal Government with its seeming nonchalance towards the creative sector is losing a huge source of revenue. This is even as they intensify the call for the establishment of a functional museum and national gallery of art to house historic art of Nigeria’s finest.
Leading this call during the week at the event was frontline Nigerian Artist and prolific painter, Mr. Kolade Oshinowo.
According to him, government is losing huge revenue that would have accrued to the country.
“It is quite sad that the creative art sector is not on the front burner of priority of government. There is a need for the government to get fully involved in the art sector to boost its potential and not leave it only to the private sector. In other climes, it is the government that controls the art sector and I will cite the example of the Louvre Museum in France, I know just how much I spend whenever I go there, that is tourism which is their main source of revenue. It is the same in London, they are backed by the government and it is used in generating revenue, sadly it is not the same here. The creative industry should be the number one priority. We go to Senegal for The Dakar Biennale, spend our money, they have an artist village, and we have made the same proposal to our government to have an artist village” he said.
The respected artist and scholar, sho is also on the Board of Lagos State Council for Arts and Culture, also called for the establishment of a proper national gallery of art that will house Nigeria’s finest artefacts and works of contemporary artists, which according to him is long overdue.
“Having a national gallery of art is long overdue, it does not matter where it will be located, either in Abuja or Lagos. This gallery will house the works of great Nigerian Artists that are fast deteriorating,” he said.
Joining him in the call for the government to look towards the creative sector is the President of the Association, Mr. Sam Ebohon, who lamented that visual artists are on their own in the country without any form of support from the government.
“Art is on the back-burner in Nigeria, we do not have any form of support from the government, we do not have a National Art Museum like it is done everywhere in the world where it is the government that sets up art museums to house art works of their country’s best. Some artworks by the Enweonwus, Okekes and Grillos are being sold off by some faceless people without anything being done about it” he said.
Moving forward, he called on government to extend support to the sector by way of infrastructure.
“The challenges are so tough because we do not have a backbone or any form of support from government. To move forward, government should extend a hand of support to the industry in terms of infrastructure and ways of elevating the art of practitioner in our country. Outside our country, Nigeria’s art is not doing badly, it is in Nigeria that we have big issues. If we can believe in ourselves, everyone will believe in us” he stated.
The Director of the gallery, Ugonna Ibe-Ejiogu, expressed delight at the opening of the gallery, saying she is excited that the guild finally has an exhibition space of its own.
“It is exciting to finally have an exhibition space of our own; this gallery will house the works of our members, and this does not mean that it will not be open for third-party exhibitions of non-members. There will also be mentoring opportunities for would-be artists who can come in at any given time to be mentored by more established artists” she revealed.
The formal opening of the gallery played host to art lovers, collectors and top players in the creative sector like the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohamed, Oshinowo and a top-performing artist Naetochukwu Chikwe amongst others.