Director at Araba Gallery, Subomi Decker and a guest during the opening.
Taking art appreciation to an uncommon territory by establishing a gallery outside the art hub of the Lagos and Victoria Islands is no doubt a bold step. And when the name of the gallery connotes strength, there seems to be assurance of sustainability.
The Alausa axis of Ikeja, near the Mall, does not look like a haven for art connoisseurs and afficianodo. But, Araba Art Gallery, which just opened for business a week ago would have to prove that it is not exactly on a wrong turf.
On a ground floor of one of the buildings overlooking the Ikeja Mall, Araba Gallery receives one of its first sets of guests this Sunday afternoon as the walls of the moderate space is populated with paintings. Scanning though the paintings on the walls for familiar signature, some pieces of table and floor ceramic sculptures interrupt one’s view. Yes, they are familiar; works by one of Nigeria’s leading ceramist, Ato Arinze.
Whoever is behind Araba Art Gallery is not coming from nowhere, so suggests the works of Arinze, among the display. Where exactly did the journey in art appreciation, which generated Araba Gallery, start from, and when? “I have been collecting since 20 to 25 years ago,” the founder, Deji Olulode replies. “But the idea to set up Araba started just last year with the director, Subomi Decker. “
In a transit period between recession and recovery, collecting art comes with a lot of caution, even in an established art market. Given its Ikeja location, perhaps the focus of the gallery would be new market within its immediate environment. “No,” Olulode says. Nigerians and other Africans in the Diaspora, he discloses, are the focus. “The Diaspora market is big, based on our research.”
Other artists on the list of Araba ‘s “representation,” are Adeola Balogun, Olusegun Adejumo Natalie Kassi Djakon (a Cameroonian), Odion Ogogo, Hassan Abiodun Tajudeen, Theo Mark, Ayo Olamide, Jeremiah N Oladiran Olamide Kolawole, Quazzem Animasaun, Olubori Isikel Olalakan, Imomoh Asemokha Naomi Oladipo and Lawal Ismail.
In the next one month, the gallery, according to Olulode is scheduled to have its first exhibition, featuting works of some of the artists under Araba.
Despite being outside the art hubs, Araba is not ready to accept the tradition that art appreciation is exclusive to certain class of people who live in choice areas. The Lagos and Victoria Islands mentality “is just a perception,” Olulode notes and argues, “being on the mainland is no threat to our survival as a gallery.” Yes, that message of courage and strength represents the Yoruba word Araba.
Indeed, the calibre of artists being shown or represented are no less popular than what most galleries on the Islands display. “The location of a gallery that sells an artist’s work should not reduce the value of the artist.”
Decker, the Director at Araba is an artist, whose duty is to see that the creative contents of the gallery is driven to sustain the new art space, particularly in an uncommon environment. He knows that there is a challenge ahead in getting the gallery show its best. But Decker finds solace in the basic fact “that there is a potential collector in every human being; art exists in everyone!”