By Tajudeen Sowole
When art patron, Chief John Edokpolo took 53 works from his collection and exhibited them to members of The Metropolitan Club, Victoria Island, Lagos, it was clear that art appreciation was coming to an unfamiliar terrain.
Strictly meant for members of the club, the one-day exhibition titled Treasures understandably lacked the usual crowd attendance a show of such display of rich works was expected to have generated. In fact, aside a few members of the media present, the hall was almost empty.
“No formal opening; club members are expected to be trickling in to view the works,” the curator of the show, Mufu Onifade interrupted one’s thought after about 45 minutes of viewing the works mounted on room-dividers in the improvised gallery space of the club’s hall.
|From the collection of Chief John Edokpolo, Ipele by Kolade Oshinowo.|
However, the near absence of visitors offered a good atmosphere and concentration to digest the aesthetics the paintings and sculptures on display. More importantly, Edokpolo’s show gave insight into the evolution of some artists’ works over the past decades. Artists whose works were exhibited included masters such as Ben Enwonwu, Abayomi Barber, Bruce Onobrakpeya, Amos Odion Bisi Fakeye and Kolade Oshinowo. Some of the young artists whose works were also displayed included Bimbo Adenugba, Chika Idu, Toyin Alade and Akinola Ebenezer.
Oshinowo’s signature of the 1990s as seen in Walnut Seller (1997), which showed the artist’s more application of light, appeared to be subtle in Ipele (2003). Also, Barber’s classic rendition of the 1990s was seen in African Romance (1999) and Maternity (1990).
And quite a treasure in Enwonwu’s drawing study, pieces of 1946 sketches of the departed master from what turned out to be the famous Queen Elizabeth’s sculpture.
Onobrakpeya’s tribute to Nobel Laureate Prof Wole Soyinka in Horns of Freedom (1998) as well as Images IV (1993) stress the master printmaker’s resilient touch in contemporary Nigerian art.
For Edokpolo, sharing his vast collection with others outside his private confines is not a new experience. In 2008, he had a similar show for a wider audience of expatriates and ambassadors at the National Museum, Onikan, Lagos.
In Treasures, about 16 artists were exhibited, cutting across sculptures and paintings, while one artist Odion had more works in wood than others. Onifade noted that art “is a mysterious piece of treasure that should be treasured by all.”
The works on display, he argued, express the strong desire and genuine interest of Edokpolo in promoting art appreciation.
Onifade traced Edokpolo’s penchant for collecting dating back 44 years ago. “He has developed a pool of sophisticated art works produced by the best and most creative hands in contemporary Nigerian art industry. Apart from a few tusks representing antiquities (aged traditional art pieces), his rich collection comprises pure contemporary works in the genres of paintings in various media, and sculptures that encompass wood, bronze and metal.
“The uniqueness of Edokpolo’s collection is not only rooted in quality but deliberately commissioned large size paintings and sculptures produced by many accomplished Nigerian artists with a wide gap in their years of practice.”
Edokpolo is a foundation member, Industrial General Insurance Plc; the longest serving director on the board of Dorman Long Nig. Ltd; Founder/first Chairman, L. W. Lambourn Nig. Ltd; Founder/Chairman, Edopetrol and Engineering Service Ltd; Founder/Chairman, Monaco Properties Ltd; Foundation member, Niger Delta Exploration and Production Plc; Chairman/CEO, Edokpolo Group of Companies, Proprietor, Edokpolo Grammar School, Benin City.