Prof. Sylvester Ogbechie, an international art historian at the University of California, Santa Barbara, U.S.A, on Thursday said that African art collectors, specifically Nigerians, were generally unknown because the collectors have not been exhibiting regularly.
Ogbechie told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Lagos that private art collectors needed to authenticate their collections through research, documentation, photographing and doing write-ups about them.
“We need to understand the importance of some important Nigerian cultural groups through art collections.
“There are many challenges but they will be surmounted if the collectors are dedicated and they try to copy the perseverance of others involved.
“Private collectors need to document the artworks in their custody and put them into a book form so that people can read them,” he said.
Ogbechie said when they document these artworks, people would get to read about them and some of such readers will also buy some of the works so as to have a knowledge of where some of the artworks come from.
“Its origin and what creating them means and it will also tell the history of the people.
“Lack of documentation and research makes a lot of arts invisible to the people,” he said.
The art Historian noted that lack of background information shedding light on African art collections was generally responsible for most of the poor knowledge on African cultural heritage today.|
“We need to add a lot of value to museums and university collections across the world with our publications on African art.
“Nigerian laws on museums need to be revisited, so as to fine-tune the laws that will help collectors to be able to open and showcase African heritage.
“African art are unique objects that provide a broad overview of a new class of African art in recent times.
“Collectors constitute an important link between their ancestral heritage and contemporary transformations of indigenous art in the African context of their original production and use,” he said.
Ogbechie explained that from1970 to 2005, the Journal for African Arts, one of the world’s leading scholarly publications on the arts of Africa, documented over 2000 exhibitions.
“That promoted the collections of African art owned by Europeans and American collectors.
“None of the exhibitions highlighted art owned by an Africans or located on the continent, despite the fact that there are many impressive collections of African art in Africa,” he said.
The professor noted that this will challenge art patrons to professionalise the art management process by investing more in research, documentation and exhibiting their private collections, both locally and internationally.
NAN reports that Ogbechie presided over an exhibition of “Making History” by the Femi Akinsanya African Art Collection (FAAAC) and other African collectors in Lagos.