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African art on spotlight at Impart Art Fair

On October 3, 2019, a team from Lasmara Art Consultancy gathered some art stakeholders; particularly art editors from some national dailies at a very exclusive venue in Ikoyi, Lagos to unveil an initiative it claimed would change the art sector for good and empower artists.

Hana Omilani, founder and director, Lasmara and leader of the team, told the art editors that she was coming up with an event she tagged ‘Impart Artists Fair’, assuring that the three-day event is a new initiative and veritable platform to promote African artists within and outside the continent.

Based on their years of experience and robust reportage of the art sector, most of the art editors doubted the fair, especially when Hana disclosed that in attendance would be about 300 African artists who would be exhibiting over 1000 recent artworks to visitors.

Well, if you were at Alpha One at Eko Atlantic in Victoria Island, Lagos (venue of the fair) from October 25-27, 2019, you would applaud the organisers for pulling off a fantastic event that was adjudged the best so far by most industry stakeholders.

Despite being the maiden edition, the fair met world-class standards in organisation, exciting activities, quality works on display, diversity of the participants from across the world, break outs, innovation, infusion of technology in line with the theme, ‘Art Meets Tech’, among others. After visiting to see the fair, the art editors were also appreciative of sincerity of the organisers.

Of course, Alpha One was a wonderful venue, which hosted over 5000 visitors for the three days the fair lasted.  The visitors included; international and local art collectors, established members of the art community, students and art enthusiasts from different socio-economic backgrounds.

The uniqueness of the venue is the huge space and its unconventional appeal.  Credit goes to Hana and her team for turning Alpha One’s massive car park of almost 5,000 square metres into an exhibition space, well-decorated, themed and fitted for the fair.

Speaking on the venue, Hana said, “We were able to avoid traffic, which is a huge challenge in Lagos. We really enjoyed that venue because we were able to give many people a brand new experience. For many who have not entered Eko Atlantic before, the fair gave them opportunity to do so and to see what has happened to their Bar Beach. They drove on the sand that was once Bar Beach, that journey alone created an experience for people”.

As well, the VIP Lounge on the 12th floor of the venue gave visitors a 360-degree view of Lagos. “It is a rare view and that added to the experience at the fair and it was important to us that people go with different views and experience of the fair”, she said.

For Lasmara, the maiden edition of the fair met beyond their expectations. “The turnout, the audience, and the feedback were very humbling”, she said.

The artists did not disappoint too. Over half of the originally scheduled artists were present at the fair.

The surprise, however, is that Lasmara exceeded its expectations for sales. “We have not completed our analysis of the sales but the sales have far exceeded our expectations. If I give you that in terms of figures, we have tripled the sales of any expectations we had. I am really excited to be able to give back to the artists, thanks to the buyers and the patrons”, she enthused.

While the visitors and artists alike have their highlights, the organisers have theirs as well.

“I think the highlight for me was when I saw artists interact with people, our tech partners interact with visitors, the reactions we saw from little children, artists and to everyone and to each other”.

But the discovery of immersive and interactive technology was also another highlight for Lasmara because a lot of people who experienced it have never put on such goggles before; they have never seen virtual tours, Virtual Reality (VR) movies and have never seen a black animated film before. “So, to be able to do that all that was great for most visitors and artists alike”, Hana said.

But while the artists were all spectacular, Hana said, “Some Sudanese and Cameroonian artists were real breath of fresh air for many collectors and they were really sought-after. At first, I did not know how it would be received because it was very different from what our collectors here are used to. But it was very nice to see people really appreciating those works. So, we had quite a few Sudanese and Cameroonian works that were extremely popular and they were part of my highlights at the fair”.

On the place of technology at the fair, which was also highlighted with the theme, ‘Art Meets Tech’, she was happy that the fair exposed the artists to technology and tools that can enhance their works.

For her, you cannot talk about the creative sector in Africa and leave technology out. She explained that in the art sector there are digital creatives, digital artists and creatives in the tech sector who are using animation or different illustrations. “The fair is over but the virtual tour is forever on our website for everybody to see. If you couldn’t visit the fair, you can still see it on the virtual tour; all the works, and information through the digital tags. It is not limited, technology has enabled us to carry on the impact beyond the opening dates, it now enabled us to share what we put together worldwide. We are sharing it with collectors everywhere and at the end of the day, it helps our creatives here and makes them more sustainable”, she explained further.

Speaking more on the technology highlights, she said that visitors at the fair were able to see Daughters of Chibok, a virtual reality movie produced by Kachi Joel Benson, among others via Virtual Reality presentations.

Visitors were also able to enjoy digital graffiti, being interactive and digital exhibition on Nigerian history, which excited the students who came on Friday morning.

Taking technology higher at the fair, the organisers were able to deliver live streaming of the activities of the fair from the Alpha One Lounge; enabling visitors to see the activities from any location at the fair. There were also animation panels, workshops and panels on opportunities of artificial intelligence (AI) and virtual reality (VR) in Africa, talks with digital artists, and immersive and animation opportunities in Africa. “We had different animation studios that came in to do workshops with children and for them to try it out. So, it was also the education aspect of it not just the fair. We were able to ask questions and get feedback from the experts”, Hana explained.

Lasmara was excited that the workshop sessions were well attended. “It was very grass root level; the questions asked were reflections of our current status and lives. We had children asking questions and saying they want to do animation. Some students expressed interest in animation but asked how they can convince their parents who want them to be doctors or lawyers.   We were able to address those issues that we have and let professionals give them first hand experiences, we had artists encouraging other artists, and we had women in the creative sector panel, where women expressed their challenges. I hope that some people went back and it triggered something in them and find courage to do what they want to do”, she said.

With the gains in the first edition, the organisers hope that participation at the fair would give the artists new energy and that their voices to be heard at a time when they thought those opportunities are becoming less.

“We have been called disruptive, yes it is a different model and it has caused people to think but that is what we are here for. We are not here to copy anybody’s model or replicate models that have been working in Europe and America. We are here to provide simple solutions for our own problems” she concluded, assuring that Impart Art Fair would not run on an annual calendar event basis, but across the year and that Lasmara is already working on the next project.

OBINNA EMELIKE
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