Yinka Olatunbosun

Flaunting over 70 art exhibitions and events, Mydrim Gallery towers above its Lagos-based peers in art marketing and management. Most memorable among these are the Living Masters exhibition, which was held in 2007 and opened by the Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka; Nigeria at 50 photography exhibition at the instance of the Lagos State Government and the Institute of Visual Arts and Culture (IVAC) lectures in collaboration with the renowned international Nigerian-born curator Bisi Silva, among others. More recently, in 2015, the gallery represented the continent at the modern art section of the International Art Dubai Fair in recognition of its involvement with art in Nigeria. It also collaborates annually with the Victoria Island-based gallery Terra Kulture as TKMG to organise art auctions and only last year, curated the Lagos State Government’s Eko Art Expo.

Being in this business for 25 years is something worth crowing about. Hence, to celebrate this milestone, an august gathering of art writers was held at the Ikoyi-based gallery recently to announce a two-day exhibition, featuring the works of some of the acknowledged masters in Nigerian art scene, some of whom started their shows at the art space.

According to the gallery’s curator Sinmidele Adesanya, “A Nigerian proverb says ‘A river that does not know its source will soon run dry.’ This exhibition is a display of the works of 12 of Nigeria’s masters such that art lovers, artists and art students know the source, that is, some of the artists who steered the course and remained committed and focused to developing the visual arts in Nigeria in the face of monumental challenges.”

Because these masters of Nigerian art scene made sacrifices for the younger generation of artists, they deserve to be acknowledged for paving the way for others.

Featured in this exhibition, which should really be a sequel of the Living Masters, are: Jimoh Akolo, El Anatsui, Abayomi Barber, Jimoh Buraimoh, David Dale, Nike Davies-Okundaye, Bisi Fakeye, Yusuf Grillo, Gani Odutokun, Bruce Onobrakpeya, Kolade Oshinowo and Muraina Oyelami.

Essentially, these masters represent the leading art movements/schools in Nigeria namely, Zaria School, Osun Oshogbo Art tradition, Yaba School and Nsukka School.

The show is set for two days, Sunday June 3 and Monday June 4 at Desiderata, Banana Island, Ikoyi, Lagos.

Established in December 1992 by Mrs. Adesanya, a lawyer by training, this gallery preens itself on its integrity in gallery-artist relationship. That reputation was earned over the years beginning from the period when just a handful of Lagosians appreciated visual art.

That was a period when art as a profession was generally not acknowledged as a noble profession. With a passion for the fine arts and recognising the incredible talent of the Nigerian artist, Adesanya was very optimistic when she started the business. As clients, the gallery was frequented by mainly expatriates, who formed the collector-base.

Yet, the journey was replete with such challenges as breach of contract by artists or even deaths of artists in contract with the gallery. “The promulgation of art as a great store of value has been established and artists are now held in high esteem,” the gallery’s press statement added. “The works of Nigerian artists are now sought after all over the world.”
Looking back at the milestone reached in building an enduring art gallery in Africa’s most populous city, Mrs Adesanya explained the reason for selecting the masters for the show which is sponsored by the law firm, Templars.