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Contemporary Art and Historiography of Art in Nigeria

Contemporary artists have a responsibility to study, to research and to be aware of the past to be able to make work that is relevant today and for the future.

Contemporary Art and Historiography of Art in Nigeria Contemporary artists have a responsibility to study, to research and to be aware of the past to be able to make work that is relevant today and for the future. In this panel we have artists from different backgrounds and generation, we have young bloggers, social media activists, we have artists who we studied at school in the 70’s and 60’s like pa Bruce, we have contemporary artists who are making waves today. How do we moved beyond the trend? To be able to create a movement that connects all the dots and is self sufficient and sustainable? This is the challenge in the 21st century with social media and the internet playing a key role in shaping contemporary visual culture and culture in general. To limit the scope of this rather extensive conversation, we will focus on these three major factors; Economic factors: In capital based economies as it now exists in Africa and most of the world, the artist today must think about value and where the most can be gotten for their work. With foreign markets offering stronger valued currencies and a larger pool of buyers, it is no surprise artists are enticed to take their work to the Diaspora. As the commodification of art continues to bite down with the jaws of capitalism, is this a trend looking to slow down anytime soon? Institutional factors: In the art sector, the importance of institutional endorsement for an artist’s career and confidence cannot be overstated. Due to uneven distribution of power owing to both internal mismanagement and external political disenfranchisement, foreign institutions have dominated the reputation based space. As artists hope to climb the career ladder to become established, the allure of foreign endorsement from galleries, museums, art schools and other such institutions remain tempting to the African artist. Is enough being done to develop institutions of art on the continent? And are we in shape to compete with the diaspora on this turf? Socio-cultural factors: While the argument can be made that traditionally, African art was not separate from African living, art has since become a subject for the affluent; categorized through history in eras and movements at least according to Eurocentric lenses. In Africa, a lack of such categorization with pre-colonial artists barely signing their works have left a gap in meaning intensified by a lack of education on the subject further detaching the society from the kind of appreciation and reverence given to great art. This has led to an underdevelopment of the art culture and the value attached to art and artists. In the diaspora where emerging artists believe the profession attracts deserved respect and the creative culture is more vibrant, there is the temptation to participate in the European tradition. Is there such a thing as African art tradition? And how is this defined and passed down to the African artist of today?

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