Signature Beyond: The Alpha Art Gallery

By catthews on November 18, 2017


Views: 807

The Signature Beyond Art Gallery
The Signature Beyond Art Gallery


Unknown to many, the Ikoyi Island in the Lagos Metropolis is a hub to one of the oldest flourishing commercial ventures in the world, which is equally thriving in Nigeria, West Africa; that is - dealing in art works or to put it this way- the Business of Art Gallery Ownership.

Thus, the imposing storey building that stands on Plot 107, Awolowo Road, Ikoyi turns out to be the Signature-beyond Art Gallery. And it is quite easy to get the feel of what is stocked inside the gallery right from outside; that is the security gate. 

There mounted on either column holding the medium size iron-gates are two heads of animals: a bull and a ram sculpture expressed in metal works.

Just inside the art gallery’s walls by the left hand side is another intriguing metal sculpture, this depicts in full length, the great Afro-beat musician, jazz maestro and choreographer, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti with his signature saxophone hanging down his neck and his hand raised in his usual ‘Black Power’ salute. 

A couple of statuettes also greet visitors and customers alike, at the entrance to the gallery.

Then inside the gallery proper, one won’t but marvel at the vision and interest of the owner Rahman Akar, a Nigerian-British.

The gallery boasts of several kinds of art works that span across various medium of art expression. There are statues cast in bronze depicting the ancient Benin Civilization. There are statues and statuettes/figurines carved in woods of varied degrees and dimensions telling different narratives especially in Yoruba Culture. Statues of different sizes done in metal works detailing varied themes also abound.

There is even a Batik work done by renowned artist and sculptor, Suzanne Wenger available for sale.

Then, at last, comes, the section that is the most familiar; the paintings on canvas, equally of various sizes and interests, telling different stories about human activities from spiritual, daily living, nudity, sex, fashion, education, politics, and culture to general evolution of mankind.

Akar sees the Signature as the ‘Mount Everest of all galleries in Nigeria”, “if you are accepted here even for free, be rest assured that your work is world class.”

The name ‘Signature’, he enthused stemmed from the need to authenticate the quality of the art works put up for display. It is a way of saying that the gallery has put its seal on a particular piece of art work.

African families who practice wood carving professionally, for instance, have a way of putting their signatures on art works which they produce through illustrations or peculiar style of design so that the knowledgeable would be able to identify such families’ works wherever they are encountered be it in market place or at other people’s homes. 

And the above explanation is not an empty one, a person needs to visit the gallery to attest to the quality of works on display.

Arts works that are showcased are exquisite and ones which Akar says, he could vouch for.

The gallery displays two types of art works; ones it collects from the artists on the basis of commission/bargain, that is the artist offers his/her work for display till sold and the gallery collects commission on the sold art work.

The other type entails an outright purchase of the art work from the artist, under this arrangement; the gallery bears the total risk of selling such an art work.

Under the first arrangement, the gallery and the artist work out the value of such particular art work in question, while under the second arrangement, the gallery alone places the price tag.

But then fixing the prices has its own intricacies too. Akar explained that there are generally two categories of art works that find their respective ways to the gallery; the ones regarded as old or traditional and the contemporary ones.

In case of the old or traditional art works, fixing the prices is always trick in view of the fact that the country lacks the carbon dating facility so it is very difficult to ascertain the specific age such art works belong to; normally, the practice is that the age of an art work influences the value.

To resolve this impasse, Akar says, he often relies on the advice of art dealers in the industry.

Concerning the price tag for the contemporary art works, Akar says, he does that all by himself.

Art works, especially the old/traditional ones, he explains, embodies history and also tells it, regardless of the fetish myth or beliefs surrounding such works; called juju in local parlance.

He has even discovered that Muslims and Christians in the country alike patronize such arts.

Unfortunately, there exists no umbrella body for art gallery owners in the country, so art gallery owners run their respective enterprises separately.

But the business environment, he says, is getting more vibrant, and many players are joining the sector.

More Nigerians, he said, are patronizing art works, with many of them seeing it as a lucrative means of investing their capital instead of venturing into the stock market to buy shares.

But he believes that the business still needs proper structure, the kind that exists in the Music Industry.

He wants a situation where the artists would stick to the creative side of the business, leaving the hustling, marketing, haggling and eventual selling of their art works to consultants, middlemen and dealers. This way sanity would be injected into the industry.

Although, it is being long that the Signature has organized an Art Exhibition, due to the amount of stress and energy it consumes, the gallery has been supporting a lot of artists “to get better in life”.

Akar’s life is as interesting as his gallery; he was born in Sierra Leone, West Africa and came to settle down in Nigeria after having seen about “50 per cent of the world”.

Akar was first a lover of art works before venturing into the gallery ownership business. The art gallery, he says, is a byproduct of his love for art works.

His present address is his second; he opened the first gallery under the same name in 1992 and moved to his present address in 1995.

Akar, who enjoys dual citizenship, does not like the state of things in his country of first choice.

According to him, he came into the country when General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida was Military President, 28 years on and seven different leaders be it military or democratic, from Chief Ernest Shonekan to current President Muhammadu Buhari, nothing he lamented has changed.

The socio-economic problems have remained the same with no possible solution in sight, he confessed.


Source cattnews

Posted 18/11/2017 12:27:19 PM




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