Nigerian art has notched up cubits ever since the advent of the Art Alliance 51 Group. It is a revolutionary art organization made up of various art groups and individuals with a common driving passion to see the rapid development of the visual arts’ sector. According to the coordinator of Art Alliance 51 Group, Mrs Juliet Ezenwa Maja-Pearce, “The primary aim is to promote the development of the visual arts’ industry in Nigeria by developing platforms for synergising the potentials of all members of the sector towards building a stronger industry. Our goal is to become the preferred platform for the visual arts’ community in Nigeria. We hope to become the preferred platform for independent artists, designers and consumers of visual arts’ products. All members since inception have been committing their time, as well as their financial, human and social network resources in order to be able to push this vision through. We are at the moment calling for more members, partners and supporters. We, the members, are tired of waiting for the elusive ‘other’ people to help us develop our sector. We have erroneously looked to the government and its organisations/parastatals to rise up to their responsibility. With the arrival of this artist-run group we are taking our sector in our own hands. All who have a passion for the rise of the visual arts’ sector are welcome to join us.”
She informs that the group is not restricted to artists alone. The registration which is free simply entails sending an email to: [email protected]. Aside from the Group coordinator, Mrs Juliet Ezenwa Maja-Pearce, other notable drivers of the project are: Mrs Klaranze Okhide, Events coordinator; Mr Phillip Nzekwe, Group liaison officer; Mr Sam Ovraiti, Executive member; Mr Lekan Onabanjo, Executive member; and Mr Adewale Maja-Pearce, Group consultant.
The member organisations thus far are, notably: African Artists Collective, Abuja; Guild of Professional Fine Artists of Nigeria (GFA), Lagos; Akademic Studio of Art, Asaba, Delta State; Yemaja Gallery, Lagos; Writers’ Collective of Nigeria, Lagos; Artists Anchor Point, Ogun State; Education Through Art Forum, Abuja; and Creative Young Minds Workshop, Lagos
Art Alliance 51 Group has since 2014 embarked on activities like 1st Creative Young Minds Workshop at Yemaja Gallery, Surulere, Lagos which was sponsored in May 2014 by Writers Collective of Nigeria and Yemaja Gallery. The second edition took place in October 2014. On June 23, 2015, the Community Art Workshop sponsored by Marble Hill Schools and Akademik Studio of Art took place in Marble Hill Schools, Asaba, Delta State. There was the Artists’ Retreat from July to August 2016 in collaboration with Artist Anchor Point and Ebedi International Writers Residency at Iseyin, Oyo State. Art Alliance 51 Group in April 2017 joined forces with Education Through Art Forum (ETAF) and African Artists’ Collective to sponsor Children’s Creative Holiday Workshop. The group in August 2017 sponsored the Artist-in-Residence Programme at African Artists’ Collective Studio, Sainagel Schools, Bwari, Abuja. In November 2017, the Art Business Training Workshop held in Yemaja Gallery, Surulere, Lagos under the sponsorship of Artists Anchor Point, African Artists Collective and Yemaja Gallery.
The group is currently in the process of coordinating and organising the proposed ART 51 BIENNALE alongside other visual arts events. The first of these events is billed for March-April 2019.
In line with the group’s annual activities, three member-artists are exhibiting at The Lobby of the Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja from April 3 to 5, 2018. The three solo exhibitions are taking place simultaneously. “It promises to wow the art- loving audience,” said Mrs Juliet Ezenwa Pearce. “This is not your regular run-of-the–mill art exhibition. The works selected for display are top–of–the-range quality art with high investment potential. This is the art that you stake your investment on. They are guaranteed to give a good yield in time. The artists have already demonstrated their enduring spirit in the art market.”
The works of Juliet Ezenwa Pearce have deservedly received international recognition and have been auctioned at Bohnams, UK, and Arthouse Contemporary, Lagos. Phillips Nzekwe’s sculptures are well sought-after and are a collector’s must-have while Klaranze Okhide’s paintings transform the ambience of spaces from modern to post-contemporary.
The bio-data of the artists run thusly: “Juliet Ezenwa Pearce has been in the forefront of the campaign for upholding the rights of the girl-child. Her works on those themes have been exhibited in Canada, Germany, the UK and the US. Her most recent events include the October, 2015 Bonhams ‘Africa Now’ art auction in London, UK; a two-person show at the Grace, Belgravia (London, UK) in March, 2016; Arthouse contemporary art auction, Lagos, February, 2016; Artist residency at the Kunstort Eleven Artspace in Borstingen Germany, September 2016; Olaudah Winter Residency for Artists, Meaux, France, January–March 2017; and was a participant at the Parallax Art Fair at Kensington Town Hall, London, UK.
“Nzekwe Phillips is an artist who employs the constructive use of everyday materials in works – both 2- and 3-dimensional. He trained as a sculptor at the Delta State University, Abraka and earned his Master’s degree from the University of Benin in 2002 and 2007 respectively. Born in 1981, Phillips has been a full-time studio artist since he graduated with his first degree. He runs the Akademik Studios of Art, Asaba, one of the primary hubs for artists and creative professionals in the south-eastern part of Nigeria. He is a facilitator at the Bruce Onobrakpeya-led Harmattan Workshop and is widely collected and exhibited.
“Klaranze Okhide is an Artist and Educator. Born in 1976, she had her formal training from the Auchi Art School (1999). Answering the call to mould lives through education, she did a post-graduate diploma in Education at the University of Abuja (2003). After her marriage, she became known as Klaranze Okhide (Mrs Okhide Clara to the Academia). She has won several awards and prizes, including the International Red Cross Society, Geneva (Women and War) 2000; and 2nd place winner, ‘Life in My City’ art competition 2008 by Alliance Francaise/Rocana. Her students have bagged several awards from primary to secondary school levels respectively – 1st place National Art Competition by National Gallery of Art, Abuja 2009 (primary category), and 2nd place ‘Ladi Kwalli Secondary School Girls Competition’ 2012 by Feaan Abuja. Klaranze draws inspiration from everyday life and she is a colourist. She derives great joy in creating art through diverse mediums as she promotes art at the youth and professional level through workshops, seminars, school art competitions and exhibitions etc. Klaranze is one of the founding members of Female Artists Association of Nigeria (Feaan) and the Society of Nigerian Artists (SNA) Abuja. She is the Head of Technology Department (HOD), Government Secondary School, Bwari-Abuja. She has exhibited widely in Nigeria and abroad. She resides in Abuja with her family.”