CNN’s Africa Avant Garde Explores The Joys And Pains Of Collecting African Art
In the latest episode of Africa Avant Garde, CNN speaks to several art buyers and collectors, exploring how art collection allows for discovery and expression.
Mr. Eazi, the Nigerian singer, songwriter, producer and entrepreneur, began collecting art just a few years ago. Speaking from Accra in Ghana, he explains why he started his collection,” I collect because it’s discovery, it’s freedom, it stands for freedom. And most of the works or most of the artists I’ve collected so far are all African artists.”
He commissioned artwork from 13 African artists to represent each song on his latest album – The Evil Genius. Mr. Eazi says, “When I started making the album and as I was thinking about it, I would go visit galleries or I would go see art and I would see the art and I started to see the similarities between the painter painting on a canvas and me as a musician painting on my canvas, and realised that at the end of the day, creativity was kind of at the centre of it all, the soul. I think this is what helped me complete the album.”
For Mr. Eazi, “The process of reaching out to the artists, the process of the first feeling I felt when I saw the work that the artist had presented to me, I don’t think it can be beaten. I think that’s the best part of this experience.”
The first song Mr Eazi recorded on the album is called Exit. He speaks about the artwork he commissioned to go with it, “I think both of us connected together on our Christian faith when we were making this. And you know, there’s a verse that says in the Bible, he sets the table before you in the presence of your enemies. The whole idea is to bring people into my world.”
Financial advisor Femi Akinsanya and public policy advisor Kayode Adegbola have been collecting art since 1979 and 2014 respectively.Femi talks about his collection, “Anything that can hold its value over time is naturally of interest to me, because I believe that the finest things, actually, time doesn’t diminish from them.” For Kayode, “Before I decide to acquire work, I check whether it keeps me up at night, and if it does keep me up at night, then I go back for it. Hopefully it’s still there.”
Femi explains that the overall theme of his collection is ‘Afrocentric’, “I pursue what I call classical African art. As much as I collect modern and contemporary, way back, I decided that I was going to make my collection what I used to call Afrocentric.”
Kayode tells CNN that he bought his first painting after losing money on the stock exchange. He talks about his experience, “The role of an art collector in the creative ecosystem is very simple, it’s like a continuum. Patronage creates opportunity for the artists who are creating to dispose of their works, to continue their practice.”
Tokini Peterside-Schwebig started to collect when she was in her twenties, leading to the creation of Art X Lagos. Art X Lagos is the leading and largest international art fair in West Africa, a showcase of the talent that exists across Africa and the global black diaspora. “We welcome collectors, we welcome buyers, we welcome people who are just here to see. People come. They take pictures, because for us this is what it’sall about, whether a collector, whether buyer, whether onlooker, observer, it’s about saying, how do we pull more people into this environment of visual art.”
Tokini states, “As there are more African collectors coming into the fold, there are also more international collectors starting to look at African art. It’s exciting and encouraging to think about the trend and what that will lead to into the future. And we can only continue to watch this space.”
Femi concludes, “The best part of being an enthusiast or a collector is that over time you are surrounded by beauty, I consider myself fortunate that I’m able to live surrounded by works of beauty.” But as Kayode notes, “You also have tocontend with ensuring that I’m not spending too much of our savings on art.”
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