While ancient African artefacts have been sold overseas as art for years now, contemporary African works are hugely marginalised in the international market, with African art making up for only 5% of art in the global industry.
For Oyinkan Dada, this is an injustice to the innumerable talented artists who boast high-quality pieces. Thus, she launched an online contemporary African art gallery, POLARTICS, a space for both African artists and art lovers across the globe to relish in the wholesome creative medium.
Launched in 2015, POLARTICS was initially the personal blog of Oyinkan Dada. Centred around African culture and politics, Dada originally set out to interview and document the artists and art she met on her travels through Africa and the Caribbean.
However, as she found herself actually collecting the art she discovered, Dada realised her passion for unearthing new artworks and transformed her blog. Further elucidation on what encouraged her shift from a blog to a multidimensional art gallery, Dada tells Konbini:
“There is an abundance of talent and not enough platforms, especially ones that are easily accessible to both artists and collectors.
As trends in the global art market show an increased interest in African art, POLARTICS positions itself as a platform that increases the visibility of young emerging artists through accessibility and affordability.”
POLARTICS primarily focuses on nurturing young artists, promoting their work and providing them with the reach that emerging artists often lack. Given that it’s an online gallery, POLARTICS is highly accessible, thus inviting art enthusiasts and collectors from all around the world.
Over the Christmas holiday, POLARTICS presented their first exhibition, ‘NIGERIAN POP CULTURE’, which featured pieces from Wami Aluko, Moyosore Briggs, Chigozie Obi and more, with a video installation from the iconic Nolly.Babes.
Dada recently re-launched the website — now formally showcasing African art locally and internationally from the perspective of a youthful generation — so we at Konbini decided to catch up with the young art enthusiast as she officially begins her curating journey.
How would you say art from African artists is represented in the global industry?
Africa seems to be the only continent where there is such a disproportionate focus on ancient art.
A lot of what is deemed ancient wasn’t [even] created with the intention of being art. They’re artefacts which had actual functions, ranging from spiritual to domestic use. They only recently took on this new meaning and this has resulted in a very one-dimensional view of what art is in the African context.
How do you hope to change or add to that?
Simply by representing contemporary African artists both within and outside the continent. I want to create a platform that amplifies the creativity of emerging talent.
African art needs to be shown in a more youthful and dynamic light and this is what I hope to represent. I hope that this will help change the global narrative of what African art is.
What was your motivation behind the Nigerian Pop Culture Exhibition?
The motivation behind the exhibition was the pop culture renaissance I saw happening on social media and the music industry. There has been a resurgence of old Nollywood, as well as the late ’90s and early 2000s Nigerian music, with a lot of new artists and young people channeling this aesthetic.
I thought it would be timely to curate an exhibition around this theme because I knew it would resonate with people. I also thought it important to curate something that had cultural significance and could evoke feelings of nostalgia and familiarity.
What can we expect from POLARTICS in the future?
Although the artists currently on the website are all Nigerian, the goal is to expand to include emerging artists from around Africa. I’m currently talking to some Senegalese artists so this expansion will happen very soon.
Also, expect to see pop up exhibitions occasionally. I think these are important for fostering a sense of community by bringing together art enthusiasts, collectors and artists. I am currently curating an exhibition happening in April.
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