Mr. Ebeten Ivara is the new Director-General, National Gallery of Art (NGA).
He resumed official duty on September 1, 2020 in Abuja. In this interview, he talks about his plans for NGA, his love for collecting art, and more. Excerpts:
What are your plans for NGA?
We are working at seeing that the NGA act is amended because the present law has made it difficult for it to tap its potentials.
This is not because subsequent chief executives did not try hard enough, but they were hamstrung by the very act establishing the parastatal, which made it service driven oriented and not revenue driven.
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The amendment will be a starting point in making NGA contribute meaningfully to the general well-being of artists in the country as well as generate revenue for the federal government.
Efforts made by NGA in the past in this direction will be fast tracked under my leadership to ensure the amendment sails through.
I intend to carry along all stakeholders, especially the Society of Nigerian Artists (SNA), Association of Gallery Owners of Nigeria (AGAN), art collectors, art teachers and even students.
Can you list some of the benefits of this amendment?
All public buildings and bridges will be required statutorily to be embellished with works of art and a particular percentage of the construction cost set aside for that purpose.
This will translate to engaging visual artists in urban and rural areas productively, almost all year round, to produce artworks for this purpose alone.
There will also be an explosion in studio practice, increase in visual art practice, entrepreneurship and mentoring.
There will also be the release of the much-needed fund to reposition visual art as a viable discipline for young people to embrace.
In this way, visual art will contribute broadly to the country’s GDP.
Nigeria is one of the few countries in Africa and the world that does not have a befitting edifice as its National Gallery of Art.
The result is that most of the artworks in the national collection are kept in an unconducive environment.
I was recently shocked when I toured offices of NGA in Abuja and saw how the few artworks were crammed in a store.
I can only imagine the state of most of our artworks in the store in Entrance B of National Theatre, Lagos.
This situation cannot continue. I am determined to ensure that NGA gets a befitting edifice at the shortest possible time.
Besides having a conducive environment to display our works, visual artists will now have alternative spaces to exhibit. In the same vein, government will begin to earn revenue as fees will be charged visitors who come to view the works on permanent and temporary exhibitions.
Also, a sculpture garden will be available for sculptors to do their work.
What is the gallery’s proposed location?
A location has not been determined yet, until our request is granted. But be rest assured the structure would be attractive.
A consultant has already been contracted and has come up with a sketch. It’s going to be wonderful.
We have taken cognisance of what is obtained in the gallery in America and Paris. In fact, it may even be better because theirs would be older.
What are your plans for aspiring artists?
There is going to be improvement in art so much that the young would be modelled to know the benefits of their artwork, particularly as regards revenue they can generate.
You draw. When last have you sat down to make art?
I used to sketch and have done some of myself.
Aside that, I am an art collector and always do so.