The business of art is a topic that is hardly discussed in corporate or business circles in Nigeria. This is evidence of the level of ignorance that is bedevilling our society as a whole. However, it is also a fact that a depressed economy is not exactly a fertile ground for the flowering of a robust art culture hence it is popular knowledge that art is mostly an elitist meal. A patron of art must have the power of purchase as it were. But that is speaking in the formalistic sense. Suffice it to say however that in everyday human existence there is art, and so in that sense we all are indirectly and unconsciously involved in the patronage in and usage of art and artistic products or creations.
But the issue is that our society is still developing and we are still grappling with the pedestrian issues of survival and consumption culture. As a people, we wallow in a self imposed life style of distractions, anxiety and disorientation. Among the signposts of development and I dare say civilisation and modern development is the level or artistic nay creative awareness, advancement and sophistication. By the time a conscious awareness and orientation is built into the system by purposeful policies, it generally rubs off on every sector of societal developmental machinery.
It is sad to say that the spirit and power behind our great artistic heritage and civilisations of the world renowned Igbo Ukwu, Nok, Benin and Ife cultures were lost somewhere along the line in the course of time. The instrument necessary for quest for societal change and leadership thrust lie in the letters and arts. The leadership will necessarily employ the instrumentality of the arts in galvanising society. Thus scientists, engineers as well as designers, etc are put to work.
Art appreciation and aesthetic values as a matter of conscious policy decisions must be inculcated into the citizenry to birth this revolution. And by the time this is done, we will begin to see a great attitudinal redirection and change that will on its own begin to fashion our existence as a people and as a nation.
In the advanced climes it is normal, and it is also a matter of policy that every public building have in its plan and construction, provision for artistic embellishment. It is a part of the architectural policy, it is also a part of the landscaping, and tourism policy, for all that it matters. And these will generally include historical, aesthetic, monumental, cultural, and economical considerations and implications.
Now let us look at the worth of an artwork: Mona Lisa (1503-7), measuring 77x53cm – the portrait of the wife of a local Italian peasant painted by Leonardo da Vinci, today is arguably the most important singular piece of artwork, both in terms of value as well as popularity. According to the Guinness Book of Records, Mona Lisa was assessed for insurance purposes at $100 million in 1962, but insurance was not concluded because the cost of the strictest security precautions was less that of the premium. Due to our level of development however, we are still not able to see art as an investment as is the case in the advanced world.
Again let us look at another typical scenario: A compilation of original manuscripts, sketches and studies carefully put together by the same artist during his life time, comprising of architectural studies, the elements of mechanics, and human anatomy are now hungrily collected by museums and individuals (Bill Gates some years back plunked down $30 million for the Codex Leicester, one of the documents!). Thus artworks can be valued and recognised, as well as accepted as collaterals by banks, etc.