Collecting Art Launch Rekindles Cultural Preservation


BY Yinka Olatunbosun

The ceremonial launch of the book, Collecting Art- A Handbook at the Wheatbaker Hotel, Ikoyi provided the platform for art collectors and enthusiasts to stress the need for preserving culture through artefacts and art. Chaired by Dr. Okey Anueyiagu, the ceremony was organised in honour of the co-authors for the book, Professor Fabian Ajogwu SAN and famed collector, Jess Castellote, also regarded as Spanish-Nigerian.

The book was described by the authors as a product of shared values and divergent viewpoints on the same subject matter of interest, namely art collecting. While the book has not been designed as a holistic textbook on the subject, many collectors who had read the book acknowledged its relevance in understanding the rudiments of collecting art. Some of these collectors include Femi Lijadu and Mrs. Dudu Peterside who preferred not to be addressed as an art collector.

In their submission, the authors revealed how they were compelled to write the book having observed the art space in Nigeria and frequent unethical practices that had been reported around it. For Castellote, there are different reasons why individuals may collect art and the book does not offer address that since it is a rather personal decision.

“Some diversify their portfolio by collecting art as assets while some just love the art pieces,” he explained. “The book is not telling us what to collect but how to collect; the good practices of collecting even if you don’t see yourself as a collector. The book is to make people better collectors.”

He identified two kinds of collectors namely the organised and the chaotic. He stressed the need for due diligence in procuring pieces of artistic expressions.“To collect on impulse or in an irrational way is not good. You need to be knowledgeable. To be a serious collector, you need to read and study. Some collectors are prudent while others are not. A serious collector does due diligence before collecting, checking the authenticity and condition of the work but an uneducated collector will regret buying a work later. Some people just accumulate works. A good collection has focus or purpose.”

The co-author, Ajogwu mused over the timing of the book launch, adding that in legal profession, such events are held in the early hours of the day with legal personalities formally dressed. Without attempting to prolong the wait for the cocktails, he delved into a brief history behind the making of the book.

“Jess and I had been on this book for five years,” he said. “This is a product of friendship, shared values and the need to contribute to the advancement of art collecting. It’s also a product of disagreement. When it comes to understanding some contemporary works, it can be tough. Jess would say, ‘art is not meant to be understood but appreciated.’

“The industry is open and there are not a lot of regulations. Can I buy a Gerald Chukwuma’s Blue Moon and change the blue to yellow? Even when sold, the artist still retains the copyright. A whole lot is left untouched in the art space. Understanding the practice of art is different from understanding the business of art. Artists often overlook the rights and formalities.”

Meanwhile, the demise of many art collectors in Nigeria had initiated the conversation around the estate of an art collector. This, Ajogwu said had been treated in the book.

“When you get enlisted in ‘of blessed memories’, will your children declutter your garage where you keep your collection? What about sale and estate? What about moral rights?” he asked, rhetorically.

In her intervention, Mrs. Dudu Peterside recounted her experience with art collecting without requisite knowledge. She said her friendship with the likes of Femi Lijadu was based on benefited for free advice on the best practices of art collecting. For her, art collecting is an emotional thing.

A fine artist, Olu Ajayi also observed that artist often muster painstaking effort in explaining the meaning of works to be sold. For him, the book will help in building a refined art community.

In conclusion, the co-authors agreed that preserving culture through artefacts and art is very essential to humanity.