Back from a one-year break after eight consecutive annual editions, the TKMG auction – holding on Friday at Terra Kulture, Lagos – promises a better outing this year, says Okechukwu Uwaezuoke

For local aficionados, this is as close as it gets to cloud nine. After all, auctions – which are few and far between in the usually vibrant Lagos art scene – are gradually becoming the most drooled-over events of the thriving industry. So, this is one good reason many would wish to applaud the return of the Terra Kulture Mydrim Gallery – a. k. a. TKMG – auction, this year.

The return? Indeed, the annual auction – the flagship event of the TKMG art auction house, which a collaboration of the two Lagos-based galleries, Terra Kulture and Mydrim Gallery – was first instituted in 2010 and took an abrupt time-out last year, after its consistent annual run from inception to the year 2016. Last year, the auction house had its hands full with the organisation of the Lagos Art Fair at the instance of the Lagos State Government. This is how come this year’s edition, holding on Friday, July 27, becomes its ninth.
Perhaps, it is apropos to recall that Terra Kulture – one of the collaborating galleries of the auction house – had in 2009 partnered with Nimbus Art Gallery for an auction.

Meanwhile, activities around the event, which holds at the Terra Kulture premises along Tiamiyu Savage Street in the upmarket Victoria Island, have already flagged off with a preview opening and cocktail on Friday, July 20.

Sponsored by Union Bank, Dorman Long and Unilever, this year’s TKMG auction features 76 lots, which consist of mainly of works by contemporary Nigerian artists. It is convenient for the organisers that it is holding at a time art patrons are taking a breather from the Arthouse Contemporary Limited’s biannual auctions and its sister version, the affordable auction. If it also plumes itself on being Nigeria’s foremost indigenous auction house, it is partly because of its adherence to the precepts of the local content credo. For not only are both collaborating galleries – Terra Kulture and Mydrim Gallery – owned and run by Nigerian women, the auctioneer is also a Nigerian.

This year, the auction house has introduced a competition segment to the event. According to the Terra Kulture Art Gallery’s curator, Ugonna Ibe-Ejiogu two “emerging artists” will for the first time since the inception of the annual auction be given “the opportunity to showcase their work and benefit from expert critique by notable and seasoned collectors.” These artists should have emerged winners of the competition, which will also have five semi-finalists whose works will be featured on the Terra Kulture Art Gallery Instagram page.

Though the two artists will have the chance to feature at the Lagos Art Auction, Ibe-Ejiogu says their works “will not be up for sale at the auction, [which] will certainly be [an] invaluable exposure for the finalists”, hoping “that it becomes a catalyst for their career growth.”

On the auction, he enthuses about its “even stronger collection of works”, a number of which “have already been reserved”. Expectedly works by such acknowledged masters of the contemporary Nigerian art as Bruce Onobrakpeya, Dele Jegede, Ablade Glover, Ben Osawe, Kolade Oshinowo, Rufus Ogundele and David Dale should feature among the auction’s bestsellers. Great expectations also swirl around works by the local art scene’s front-line artists Abiodun Olaku, Sam Ovraiti, Duke Asidere, Gbenga Offo, Segun Aiyesan, Alex Nwokolo, Olisa Nwadiogbu, Pita Ohiwerei, Fidel Oyiogu, Chijioke Onuorah, Mufu Onifade, George Edozie, Ibeabuchi Ananaba, Fidelis Odogwu and the Germany-based Nigerian-born Chidi Kwubiri. Of course, names like Obinna Makata, Uchay Joel Chima and Tony Nsofor, among others, should elicit the interest of collectors. Perhaps, the auction’s dark horse is the young emerging artist Odiabhehor Odibo.

Besides the well-known Ghanaian-born Ablade Glover, the auction also features a handful of foreign-born artists like Dominique Zinkpe, Eunock Hounkpevi, Samuel Tete Katcham, Basille Moussougan and Ato Delaquis.

Curiously, the auction’s 2016 edition’s top two selling works were both by the Ghanaian-born Ablade Glover. The first, a 2013 oil on canvas painting, titled “Market Queens”, sold for N3.2 million while the second, another 2013 oil on canvas painting, titled “People” sold for N2.8 million. Ndidi Emefiele’s mixed media work, titled “Rainbow Brigade 8”, was sold for N950, 000. The relatively modest pricing of the works suggest the event’s susceptibility to the prevailing economic climate. Apparently, more than half of the works in that edition of the auction were returned unsold.

But then, for an auction house that came into the scene after the Arthouse Contemporary Limited auctions have been firmly established in the Lagos annual cultural calendar, the TKMG has not done badly. Not only has it grown to record an average of over 70% sales in its annual auctions, it has become established as one of Nigeria’s leading auction houses. The Mydrim Gallery’s curator, Mrs Sinmidele Adesanya attributes the drop in the sales over the years to the signs of the times. “We have been in a recession and we are slowing coming out of it,” she explains.

“This is not exclusive to art. It affected all aspects of the economy. It was also not just a Nigerian problem, but also a problem that affected all countries.”

Still, there are good reasons to be more hopeful for better sales at the auction this year. Mrs Adesanya believes the investment climate in the country is improving slowly. “People are investing wisely and art is a viable investment option,” she says.

Indeed, the growing art awareness in the local scene has helped oil the wheels of creativity. Now and then, a handful of artists have managed to extend their collector-base beyond the country’s borders, thanks to international art meets and exhibitions.

Mrs Adesanya also says that the auction house is shifting its focus towards younger artists and collectors. “There is room for them to grow. Hence, we are looking forward to [having] the younger of clientele alongside the older clients. This is because the auction itself is a good platform for collection.”

In addition to all these, it is difficult to imagine a fixation of the art scene on its glorious past. For as long as it continually churns out new talents, the demand for their works should be able to sustain the art market.