LONDON: Eight leading modernist artists working across Africa and Europe from the 1960s to the present day are being showcased by London’s Tafeta Gallery at Art Dubai — the Middle East’s largest art fair, which kicked off on Wednesday and will wrap up on Saturday.
They include Ibrahim El-Salahi, the first African artist to have a retrospective at the Tate Modern in London, and Bruce Onobrakpeya, whose works are in the collections of the Vatican Museum in Rome, the National Gallery in Nairobi, and the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art in Washington, among other prestigious places.
All eight artists were affiliated with the Mbari Club for artists and writers in Ibadan, Nigeria and its regional chapters.
Established in 1961, the club was founded by a diverse group of artists, writers, musicians, actors and intellectuals.
Arab News met up with Ayo Adeyinka, founder and owner of Tafeta, to learn more about how the club nurtured talent.
“The aim was to create an artistic space for artists to flourish post-Independence. The artists I’m bringing to Dubai showed at Mbari in the 1960s, 70s and 80s. They are very well established now, but back then they were fresh-faced starters trying to find their feet and create their own artistic language.
“The legacy of the club, which was pan-Aftican, is that it gave artists a platform to engage internationally,” he said.
Adeyinka has a background in finance and was a keen collector of art before deciding to make his passion his career. “I found the arts a lot more engaging and fulfilling and knowing a bit about business always helps in the creative space,” he explained.
He has showed successfully at Art Dubai over three seasons and is especially pleased that he has attracted Emirati buyers.
Speaking of the event, he said: “It’s super well organized and the only fair I go to where a free lunch is served to the exhibitors! You feel looked after which is a bonus.”
Asked about the art scene on the African continent, he pointed to Nigeria as brimming with talent and singled out its booming youth population as an important factor — media reports indicate that more than half of its population is under the age of 35.
“That’s a lot of young, creative energy which is drawing on the deep-rooted traditions of the country’s artists, writers and musicians,” he said.