By Tajudeen Sowole
It was a celebration of 30 years in art appreciation when one of Sub-Saharan Africa’s leading law firms, Oalniwun Ajayi LP marked its 50 years Anniversary.
Held at Harbour Points, Victoria Island, Lagos, the richness of contemporary and traditional Nigerian art of the past decades was felt in the art exhibition section of the entertainment aspect tagged An Evening of The Arts.
On display were works as old as 1952 and as new as 2011, cutting across generations of artists such as Ben Enwonwu, Bruce Onobrakpeya, Lamidi Fakeye, Muraina Oyelami, Rabiu Adeleke Twins Seven Seven, Muri Adejinmi, Oyerinde Olootu, Nelson Okoh, Reuben Ugbine, George Nwadiogbu, Ini Brown and Soji Yoloye.
The Arts aspect of the anniversary also featured music, drum and dance cultural ensemble. However, the art exhibition section, which the organisers projected to be “the highlight of the evening,” lived up to expectation.
During a chat shortly before the guests started arriving, Mrs Olatoyosi Alabi of Corporate Affairs, Planning and Strategy, Olaniwun Ajayi LP explained that the exhibition was being organised to make a statement that though it’s a legal establishment, art share in the passion.
“While we are legal minds, we are also art lovers; there is something central about our minds and the way we think.” She also disclosed that “we have been collecting since 30 yrs, focusing on Nigerian artists.”
One of he Works, Bruce Onobrakpeya’s Road to Cattle Ranch (1988)
With such a vast collection, and still counting, perhaps, the legal practitioners would join in the new valuation of Nigerian art by selling some of its collections and acquiring more through auction outlets. “We are not thinking of selling or auctioning, but we do give out works to our clients.”
Documentation, she stated, is crucial to the collection, hence a book titled Art of Olaniwun Ajayi, though not available today, but to be given out later.”
She argued that in an environment such as Nigeria where corporate collections are rare, and do not get adequate exposure in public spaces as well as in publication, “the catalogue comes as a significant investment in the propagation of artistic and cultural values.”
According to a statement sent earlier before the event, “the book traces the historical depth of the Olaniwun Ajayi LP’s art collection, covering a period from circa 1954 to 2011 and reflecting the vigorous and dynamic changes in modern Nigerian art.”
The curator of the exhibition, Oliver Enwonwu noted that works selected for the show “convey such an engaging socio-political, historical and economic narrative, which marks the stylistic development and progress of art in Nigeria.”
Sir Olaniwun Ajayi (left), Gov of Ogun State Ibikunle Amosun and Mrs Yimika Phillips of Olaniwun Ajayi LP during An Evening of The Arts… recently
The catalogue, more importantly would also highlight the various schools of art that has emerged as the artist featured represents each schools.
These include The Zaria Art School, a movement represented in the collection by Onobrakpeya; the Abayomi Barber School through Barber and one of his students, Adejimi; the Osogbo School, custodian of traditional Yoruba art, and featuring works by Seven Seven, Buraimoh, Adeleke and Oyelami.
The selection, according to the managing partner, Dr. Konyinsola Ajayi (SAN), “has not been driven by belief in myths and magic, but the stories they tell, the appeal they have, the value they hold and the link to our philosophy that they have.”