Tuesday, 26 February 2019

N3.5b Shyllon Museum Excites Art Community


By May, the Yemisi Shyllon Museum of Art will be ready for operation. It will expand the learning space at the Pan-Atlantic University, Lekki, Lagos, and boost the promotion of Nigerian artists and art, Assistant Editor (Arts) OZOLUA UHAKHEME reports.

The multibillion naira Yemisi Shyllon Museum of Art at the Pan Atlantic University, Lekki, Lagos is fast becoming a tourist attraction. With barely seven months to its official opening, art buffs and art enthusiasts have been visiting the complex under construction to have a feel of the shape and facilities it will offer the art community. In the last two months, no fewer than three sets of visitors have visited the project site located on the edge of a green lawn adjacent the main building of the university.
The conception of the project, which is an extension of the university’s lofty educational goals, started in July 2015 when Omooba Yemisi Shyllon through his foundation, Omooba Yemisi Adedoyin Shyllon Art Foundation (OYASAF) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Pan Atlantic University to build a museum that will house most of the art collections of Omooba Yemisi Shyllon. Consequently, the foundation donated N100m as commitment to the project.
Each of the visits was coordinated by Spanish-born architect, Jess Castellote, who designed the museum structure. In a chat with The Nation during a recent visit to the museum, Castellote disclosed the physical structures will be ready for use by May, while the official opening is October 1. He added that before the formal opening, the museum’s doors will be opened to not only students from all disciplines in the university, but also to those from nearby schools, especially those located in Lagos.
The Museum complex under construction

Omooba Yemisi Shyllon confirmed that the October 1 formal opening date is realisable as work is ongoing on other aspects of the museum, which include documentation, design display of works, photography, design of website for virtual museum and the setting up of advisory board. “We are working towards October 1 date. And we hope we will be able to do it. I strongly hope that the fund I am expected to drop soon will come too,” he assured.
Castellote, who also doubles as Director of the Museum, said that the museum will open with an exhibition on Materiality and Society featuring works donated by Omooba Yemisi Shyllon. The show is meant to highlight how artists have worked with materials and the society over the years in Nigeria. The museum has among others a gallery for temporary exhibition, lecture room, storage room, etc.
Beyond the completion of the project, sourcing of qualified young men to man the facilities is one big challenge confronting the museum management. This, according to Castellote, is one task he will spend three months to resolve by first seeking training partners from within and outside the country. “We hope to finish construction of the museum by May, but it will not open till October 1. We have three months to train the staff that will work here. There are talks with institutions and universities outside for training of staff in order to get the expertise and experience.
“After designing the museum, the university approached me to be the Director of the museum. Part of my assignment is to determine the objectives, strategic plans and put together a team for the running of the museum. So, I am trying to identify young people within the period of five years that will be trained by universities and museums outside Nigeria as partners. This is a challenge,” he said.
On sustenance of the project, he confirmed that Shyllon has agreed to make money available for the running of the museum for15 years. With this, there is the guarantee that the museum will be sustainable.
Speaking on the objectives of the museum, he said: “It is not a museum based on exhibition, not a museum as tourist attraction, not a museum as generator of economic activities. However, it could be a total of all these in the future. But at the moment, it is an educational museum that serves the university and the larger society. It is to serve as an educational tool. We will start by bringing secondary school students as well as design programmes for art teachers in secondary schools to engage them on arts. The success of the museum will be measured by how much we are able to engage and the impact we have on the people. We want people to take something away from their visit to the museum. For instance, we are going to develop object-based learning process for the students, how a piece of art work communicates to the viewers. We will also educate our professors who are not art inclined. The interaction can also interrogate areas like how the Benin artists got bronze to work in the early 18th century.” He hinted that the museum is independent of the university and not under any faculty as it is practised in other universities.
According to him, one of the programmes to kick start the museum operation includes training of secondary school art teachers in order to make the museum more beneficial to teachers and students. The exhibitions, he said, would not be static as they may be considered for tour of other countries.
The museum has two floors for display of works, each of which revolves around two major themes. The ground floor will take care of works on Materiality and Civilisation in Nigerian art, while the upper floor is expected to host works on Tradition, Modernity and Society. With these, the museum would be filing a gap, thus making it a place for artistic innovation capable of attracting tourists. “Art can be a wonderful instrument to foster deeper understanding of what it means to be human and to promote creativity as a necessary feature in all disciplines, from economics to information technology, communication, among others,” he added. He stressed that the primary objective of the museum is audience engagement. Already, Shyllon, who is one of the most important collectors of modern African art, has donated 1,000 of the best artworks in his collection as well as 200 photographs depicting Nigeria’s people and cultures to the university.The collection includes traditional art, modern paintings and sculptures and photographs of Nigeria’s fast disappearing cultural festivals produced by Ariyo Oguntimehin. The modern paintings include works by such notable artists such as Aina Onabolu, Ben Enwonwu, Yussuf Grillo, El Anatsui, Simon Okeke, Uche Okeke, Okebulu, Akinola Lasekan and Bruce Onobrakpeya, among others. The contemporary paintings include works by Diseye Tantua, Segun Aiyesan, Kelani Abass and sculptural pieces by Adeola Balogun, Ben Enwonwu, Oladapo Afolayan, Isiaka Osunde, Okpu Eze, among others.
But according to him, the museum space can only exhibit not more than 300 works at any given time. He added that most of the works in the museum’s collection will not be displayed.
To run the museum, there will be a council and a board charged with the responsibility. “We will have a board and council made of nine members, some brought by the university and Shyllon. Also, we will have an advisory board on decisions on curatorial directions etc,” he said.
On the cost implication of the project, Castellote said he has so far expended about 500,000 dollars, which many observers consider as economical compared to what obtains elsewhere.
Omooba Shyllon explained earlier why he decided to donate such a museum to the university.
“I don’t want a situation where I have devoted the greater percentage of my life to collecting artworks and my efforts go in vain and the only way I can do it is to ensure that I give my works to an institution that can manage it and use it to propagate our culture, our creativity and our heritage as a people,” he said.
He noted that the museum project is his own way of contributing to Nigeria’s positive image in the world, adding that it is to show that ‘my people from this part of the world are not all about 419, condemning their environment, kidnapping, but there are people who have selflessly devoted their lives to making a positive difference in whatever area they have chosen.’
Continuing he said: “Not only that, people would not have to go to Tate Gallery in London to see an Aina Onabolu, Akin Olasekan, Okebulu, Ugoji, Simon Okeke and the rest or to learn about our artists, our culture, our way of life vis-à-vis our creativity.



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