How Eko Gallery projects Nigerian art in Texas, USA – Dr.
When exactly did Eko Gallery start?
Eko Gallery itself is two and a half years old. We moved the gallery from the house to the actual gallery space. The house is more of a residential community on the outskirts of Houston. If you are an art lover, you will certainly find art wherever it is. Then we find that there is a damn artist community located in downtown Houston in the Sawyer Arts District. A family that has taken an abandoned warehouse along the railway line is like a rice factory, but it has probably been decades since it has not been used. They took these warehouses, several of them, spanning five different streets and converted them into art studios and art galleries. Today, when we talk about art, no one go to that part of town unless they go for the arts. I think there are probably around 4000 studios and art galleries there. This was where we thought we should have the Eko gallery. We hope we will invite more artists from Nigeria. Earlier this year, we invited Ayo Ola, a Nigerian artist. We want to continue in this thread of inviting different artists, exhibitions, workshops, because I think that’s the first way to start putting the artist in their face.
In the community where we are, we must reintroduce this artist to them. It’s one thing to tell the story through art, but quite another to know the artist in person. The plan is for them to work in the studio (Houston) and have their exhibits. This is our plan for them. We want to be able to work with the artist, we provide accommodation, we provide whatever we can, give them a place to work and organize events with the artist during their stay with us.
Do you work with old or new generation artists to supply the gallery?
Frankly, you want to work with the young artist. There are collectors who know well known names. They are able to value African work based on the value of certain ancient artists. They have a target. For example, many of them are familiar with contemporary European arts; this is the potential value of an African / Nigerian artist. We want to invest in emerging artists. Some of these collectors are not only impressed with beautiful works; they are investing in something that has substantial monetary value. There are two things that motivate an art collector. Potential value of the work, so when he puts his money into it, he knows it’s like a gold mine.
What is your vision of the gallery?
First, we need to build the market that refers to collectors. Then we want to bring collectors to Nigeria. We want to be able to contribute in a way to tourism. Imagine that you have something in your house that you love so much and that one day you have the opportunity to go to where it was made. It’s like going to the artist’s birthplace. I remember when we went to Jamaica to visit Bob Marley’s birthplace. My wife insisted that my 50th birthday be in Jamaica. When we entered Bob Marley’s compound, it was as if we were finally witnesses, we entered his room, his kitchen, the house he grew up in, the tea cups, his plates … you yourself sit in the room where he sat and composed one of his popular songs. His guitar is still there. We went to his grave where he, his grandparents and his siblings were buried. And we were like, “Bob Marley, so that’s where you’re from!” So African art collectors, when they come to Africa, it will be a great experience.
What lessons have life taught you as a person?
Humility is the greatest lesson in life. Everything we have in life is temporary: health, wealth, and happiness come and go. I think in the end, for me, if you humble yourself, you will be exalted. If you get excited you will be disappointed where you are, this is my biggest lesson in life.