Choo chooooo, all aboard! Next stop is Nigeria with Ifeoma Dike, an art advisor and curator as well as the founder and CEO of IDDUK. Ifeoma intensively travels across Africa and the world to identify new talents, underrepresented artists, and spot collecting and investment opportunities. In this episode, we talk about pricing art for artists on different levels, digitization of art and emerging art tech, diversity in art, distribution, and collection, and more!
*For the best experience, please use a headset/earphones.
Music by: Ngalah Oreyo (@ngalah_oreyo) and Mercy Barno (@merc.b_)
[00:00:00] Ifeoma Dike: I used to put together images of work on a PDF which I call the blind portfolio only because I never put the name of the artist, their country of origin, and so on. Because I was also trying not to influence the clients, but also just getting them to choose what they really want, what they really like rather than what their neighbors have or their competitors have...
[00:00:20] Hosts: Ifeoma is an entrepreneur who's disrupting the business of art curation and distribution. She's the founder and CEO of I D D U K, a social enterprise that supports artists across the continent, working with partners to improve the ecosystem for creatives and paying due consideration to the wider collective social impact of investing in art from Africa.
[00:00:43] On this episode, we delve into how her background in clinical psychology has influenced her work, her extensive travels looking for underrepresented artists and linking them with art collectors, her take on pricing art for artists on different levels,
digitization of art and emerging art tech, diversity in art, distribution, and collection and her methodologies.
Welcome to Afrika design, a creative tour of Africa.
Meaning of names
[00:01:10] Ifeoma Dike: My name is Ifeoma Dike. As you know, I'm an art advisor and curator. My friends will call me an art pioneer of the way I started or, you know, started my journey into the art ecosystem. Yes, my name Ifeoma means a good thing. And my surname means warrior or a man of great strength. And so, for me, my full name is a good thing with great strength. A warrior. So, in a way, I think sometimes that the meaning of our name sometimes describes us. Well, mine describes me perfectly, if that makes sense.
[00:01:47] Hosts (Adrian/Naitiemu): That's wonderful. Yeah. That's why we have that question because it turns out many people's names fit their character or their personality. So, Naitiemu, what's your name? Naitiemu means one who satisfies in Maasai.
[00:02:00] Ifeoma Dike: I see. Adrian, what's the meaning of your name?
[00:02:05] Hosts (Adrian/Naitiemu): I dunno, Adrian. I know Jankowiak, I think that I A K ending is old Polish for son of. So, it's like son of Jan, something like that.
[00:02:15] So, just a second there because since we've had this conversation, I've actually looked up what my name means. I knew that it was a Latin word, meaning from Hadria the town, and of the Adriatic Sea as well. And apparently, means wealthy, rich, or dark one.
[00:02:32] Ifeoma Dike: Okay.
[00:02:33] Hosts (Adrian/Naitiemu): In Maasai culture, actually, from how it used to be like the kid wasn't named until almost like six months later. Before then you were given pet names, you know, what your friends around you feel like, and then after six months, then the elders would finally give you a name based on the family or how you represent yourself.
[00:02:51] So, usually based on the family and who was named that way in your family. And if their character actually matched up to the name, then the child is given that name by the elders.
[00:03:02] Ifeoma Dike: Oh, wow. I like that idea. I think it's quite interesting actually.
[00:03:07] Hosts (Adrian/Naitiemu): Have you heard of any things, like what Naitiemu just said in Maasai, are there any naming rituals in your culture?
[00:03:13] Ifeoma Dike: I don't know if we have a ritual per se. Again, it's what the parents deem and it's, you know, if they're Christians, they want to be as Christianly as possible. And it just depends on the parents and what... what they like. But I don't think they put much thought. I don't know. I don't know if we have a ritualistic way of naming at least from where I come from, I'm Igbo. Which is from the east of Nigeria. So, I have no idea. So, if there is, there might be, I have no idea. So, I don't want to make up stories that I have no idea of. But I'm sure because, you know, Nigeria is so big. And we have a very diverse culture and tribes and so on with their nuances in their various traditional practices and so on.
[00:03:56] I'm sure that somebody will come to me now and say to me, in the Delta, this is how we name or in the north and so on and so forth. But where I come from, or even Benin City where I was born and raised, I'm not so sure about the sort of process that goes into naming a child.
Influence of neuropsychology
[00:04:14] Hosts (Adrian/Naitiemu): Neuropsychology. How has it influenced your work in art?
[00:04:18] Ifeoma Dike: I did an MSC in neuropsychology, but I was a clinical psychologist. It's still the same, but slightly different.
[00:04:25] Well, I would say the clinical psychology part has... although the general training is the same. It's just that with neuropsychology, it's more focused on... brain and how the brain affects our behavior and so on and so forth. But generally, how I got into the work I do as an art advisor, curator, pioneer, whatever it is you wanna call me
has really a reflection of my purpose and passion, which is to help.
[00:04:50] And psychology also is about helping people in terms of their mental well-being and so on. And whatever I find, a gap or inequality. So, that's sort of the guide. And mental well-being is hugely important to me. And the creative word, I think, has provided sanctuary for me personally in terms of my personal appreciation and enthusiasm for art and culture, music, theater, et cetera. And what that does to our
psychological wellbeing, so to speak. And I come from a culture where performance art is part and parcel of our culture and ritualistic tradition.
[00:05:30] Although I did not discover contemporary art in Nigeria because I did not grow up in Lagos where modern and contemporary art was really booming. I didn't actually visit Lagos that much. The contemporary art world, I actually discovered when I came to the UK for university.
[00:05:45] So there I met friends and data people who were in the art world, you know, their art enthusiast or closet artists. I would say that it was a journey because also it was interesting to have a variety of friends who were mostly Europeans. Some of them worked for banks that sponsored museum shows, and big commercial galleries.
[00:06:05] So, going to a lot of those shows and openings and previews and I really didn't see much of artists from Africa. I mean, the only two artists who I saw predominantly were in fact, one was Chris Ofili. Yinka Shonibare, for example. I had met through an architect friend of mine who had this event called latitude.
[00:06:29] So, he would ask people to create a cuisine from where the latitude was sitting, you know, and then we get together and just sort of share the various food from the different parts. And Yinka Shonibare's studio was one of those two years we went to, and it was how I met him. I didn't even know he was an artist. And it was where I got to know him also as an artist and started looking into his work.
[00:06:52] But prior to that, I didn't really see African artists. For me, it was not a big deal. I just thought it was normal. Do you understand? I mean, I'm in Europe, you know,
maybe that's the way it works here and so on. So, I didn't really place any emphasis as to why things were the way they were until around 2009. I think I was invited by a friend to an art auction that was purporting to raise money to promote artists from Africa. Do you understand? So, I started wondering, you know, oh, wow. So, they're actually the genre of African art and so on in the contemporary world and what that was about, and just sort of going to lots and lots of different art openings and exhibitions.
[00:07:35] I started meeting and seeing and discovering a lot of artists from Africa in the diaspora and those who were actually still based in Africa, but always felt that they needed to move to Europe to make it as an artist. And for me, what caught my attention or what I saw as gaps were: how come these artists were not… sort of commanding the same price value as the European artists, you know, like the counterparts and they have the same talent, if not more talented. There were just gaps and nuances that I thought weren’t quite right.
[00:08:10] And also you go to our previews, you see a lot of people there drinking champagne and free drinks. And I just wondered, what percentage of those people were actually buying work? Do you understand? My inquisitiveness also comes from being a psychologist where you have to always critically appraise situations.
[00:08:30] Every situation you find yourself in. And for me, that was what was happening there. I was thinking what's going on and how can I fit? What can I do here? How can I work in this realm, but not in the traditional way? So, off I went with my idea, which was to travel extensively looking for artists in underdeveloped areas of art. The
places where you don't find a lot of artists or the art industry booming. Lagos for example is a big place for artists but when you go start moving towards the north of Nigeria or certain even aspects of Lagos. Southwest Nigeria, you don't see the same sort of energy.
[00:09:12] Even in England here. London is the hub for art but when you start moving to Cambridge and Oxford and beyond Dorset. It's not the same energy. And that is even worse for artists, African artists. And I wanted to be their conduit.
[00:09:28] So, the person who would go find them, either put them in the collection of my art collectors or at least introduce them to other curators or galleries and so on and so forth. So, that was really how it all started for me. When I clicked off, I saw that my way was working for me. And after my very first corporate show, my corporate exhibition, which was with Ecobank at the time. Fortunately, the CEO was a collector himself and also a great art enthusiast who was also a big supporter of women.
[00:10:01] I was happy or liked the idea of somebody trying to showcase artists using other platforms to give artists visibility. So, the fact that I thought that, you know, the gallery space was not the only space in which an artist can get visibility or be showcased to be relevant. I just thought, okay. I'm just going to keep finding people who can actually afford art and even if they don't buy. I wouldn't have spent or my gallery partners or even the artists wouldn't have spent a dime, having to pay for the entertainment of people, the refreshments, and so on.
[00:10:35] We wouldn't have paid for the logistics of artwork in and out of the space. So, in a way, it was a win-win situation for us. Whereby you know, we have this free platform to showcase artists. We have the opportunity of a new audience, and then also having all that without having us spend any part of our money.
[00:10:56] And obviously when they bought it was a massive bonus. And also giving the artist the opportunity of a different sort of clientele, you know, audience. And that was how it started for me. And as soon as that, was a huge success. I decided that I was going to travel not only to developing countries but developed countries, places like South Korea and Japan, where I knew that the African market was almost nonexistent there. And so, that was how my journey started.
Working with galleries & collectors
[00:11:27] Hosts (Adrian/Naitiemu): How did you connect with these creatives? How did you introduce them to this concept and get them on board?
[00:11:34] Ifeoma Dike: I had artists who were friends, but my whole idea was not really to work directly with artists. I wasn't going to be a promoter of artists. It's a more difficult position and it's not me. So, I wanted to do things that aligned with my strength and my passion is to travel.
[00:11:52] And so, that was also trying to buy that into how I was going to work. But I also thought that working with galleries was going to be more productive for me because they would already have at least six, seven artists on the roster to choose from, you know, so it's always easier to work with galleries.
[00:12:11] And then for the artists who were very close friends or might have something that I thought would work for my clients, I would also bring into my space. But what I did was I used to put together images of work on a PDF which I call the blind portfolio
only because I never put the name of the artist, their country of origin, and so on. Because I was also trying not to influence the clients, but also just getting them to choose what they really want, what they really like rather than what their neighbors have or their competitors have. And also, it was a way of diversifying their collection as well without forcing them to buy what they don't like.
[00:12:48] Do you understand? Not wanting them to do stuff because they think now it's cool to do so. So, I'm going to have to look like I'm supporting a female artist or an African artist, or a male artist. I just wanted them to choose what they like. And if it
happens to be an artist from Africa, wonderful.
[00:13:04] If it happens to be a woman, a female artist. Fantastic. And that also worked well for me. So, the PDF was my way of working which a lot of people didn't think would work for me. But as we get into the conversations and the world change, we can see how that was everybody's saving grace.
[00:13:22] So, it's always good to hold onto your vision and foresight whatever the naysayers say to you. That was how I decided that I was going to work. And as you know, the art world is not what you read. What goes on in the secondary market that people see that and think, oh my God, you know, it is so easy.
[00:13:39] Art is so expensive. Artists are making so much money. It isn't the reality. The reality in the primary market is very different. And so, you have to ensure that you do your due diligence, you know what you're doing, and you're very realistic in your
approach. And this is why for me, in order to have a sustainable business in this industry meant coming up with ideas beyond sourcing the best artworks for my client or by offering my clients a full range of other services attached to the life cycle of a collection. So, from their shipping, framing, introducing appropriate hanging systems, hanging works for them, lighting, and refurbishment as part of the service. Additional service that our company provided just to keep us financially viable, do you understand? So, yeah.
[00:14:27] Hosts (Adrian/Naitiemu): Wow, congrats on that. That's such an amazing idea with the PDF. It reminds me a bit of the, is it called the black List that they do in Hollywood? It was a director or screenwriter or a journalist who collected all the screenplays, asks people for the best screenplay that you have received this year, that isn't gonna be published, that hasn't been picked up by a major movie studio, and then started just emailing that out to people and people picking.
[00:14:56] Like, I think Juno came from that list. A lot of the kind of indie feeling films from the last decade came about like that. Yeah.
[00:15:05] Ifeoma Dike: Well, I didn't know that. That's a great idea. And that's the only way you can really support the minority minorities in our societies, really.
[00:15:12] Hosts (Adrian/Naitiemu): That's an amazing idea. And I wonder if you can, you know, have a blind catalog going further. This is really cool. Within your job, how would you define the process that you're taking people through?
[00:15:24] Ifeoma Dike: I travel a lot and part of that travel is to discover and I think my clients like the idea of living vicariously through me. When they're free, sometimes I would ring them on FaceTime just to see some artists’ work that I've discovered if I'm in a studio or a small independent gallery in a rural area. They like that.
[00:15:44] And so, that is my process. And oftentimes go, I want that work. I want that work immediately on the, you know, and so which surprises a lot of people as well. So, for them, they see I'm educating them. That's sort of expanding their knowledge of
culture as well. Don't forget a lot of my clients are European.
[00:16:02] Prior to me coming to help diversify their collection, they were mostly used to collecting works by European artists or American artists and also had what I would call a very stereotypical view of cultures, of people. And so, my travel and bringing them along my experiences has helped expand their knowledge of various places in
Africa and various cultures. And also help them realize that truly Africa isn't a country. It's got 54 countries with very, very diverse cultures and traditions and so on and so forth.
[00:16:38] So, they like the idea of that. They like that personal touch that I bring to how I work because when they've worked with institutions or individuals from institutions, they come with this sort of air of, you know, that I'm special, I'm important, or I'm with a very famous institution.
[00:16:54] I think it's often lacking that whole personal touch to an individual client. It's not just about business for me or, you know, getting them to acquire artworks through me, but it's just also getting them to understand other aspects. Getting them to
understand the various cultures that influence the artists whose work they're acquiring through me.
[00:17:17] I think that that is a way that is unique to me and a way that has opened a lot of doors for me. And a way that also has allowed me to gain the trust of my clients because they know that passion and purpose is what is driving me. The fiscal advantage is just something that inadvertently comes out of doing a good job.
Covid 19 & effect on industry
[00:17:38] Hosts (Adrian/Naitiemu): With the onset of COVID 19 pandemic, there was a lockdown that limited traveling, disrupting the traditional methods of art collection and distribution Ifeoma tells us how she was able to navigate this challenge through systems that had already been set up in her business.
[00:17:53] Ifeoma Dike: Before COVID, I adopted the PDF mode. I didn't want any brick and mortar because the overheads are so expensive for a space. So, I thought I was going to do things differently and also in a way that allowed me to travel with the artists, the young artists, and artists who came to me at the time wanting a kind of representation from a gallery or me helping them.
[00:18:13] The advice I give to them then was, you have the social media platform, why don't you use it? Especially the Instagram. I said, why don't you use that and be the face of your work instead of having to sit down, waiting perpetually for an opportunity
with a gallery, what if it never comes? So, I remember people used to laugh and think it was an odd way or a desperate way to showcase, especially for the artists who were showing their work, using Instagram to promote their work.
[00:18:42] So, fast forward all these years later to COVID where suddenly we all found ourselves grounded. Nothing. We couldn't travel. We didn't even know what was going to happen to us or the world. And then suddenly, galleries were struggling. I mean, they couldn't actually physically go out to work.
[00:19:02] Yet, they still had the overheads to pay. Institutions couldn't do anything with it. Suddenly what happened, that whole idea that they had spot on, became their only solution. So, the online and PDF emailing to send work to clients now became a part and parcel of their survival. Those artists who were laughed at and called
desperate for using social media became visionaries themselves because suddenly now the galleries and institutions adopted the whole social media platform to showcase and promote their work and what they're doing.
[00:19:39] The first six months of COVID were quite tough, maybe not the first year, because people were trying to now understand what was going to happen. Clients were not really spending because they weren't sure about what the future would be.
[00:19:52] And also, we had work that had been paid for, but how do we get it from the country to the owner? We had a lot of concerns and worries, and so on which after a year became better. I think as we got to understand COVID and countries started taking the various steps in reassuring the public. I think people had a lot of time in their hands to be bored and started buying art.
[00:20:18] Started looking into art more because there was nothing more to do. They had all the time in the world now to focus. And I would say that after I think the end of 2020, early 2021, I haven't stopped since. It's been a blessing for me, but it's been more
of a blessing for me because I had adopted a system that my clients already gotten
used to. And so, there was no hesitation. Whereas for people who had to see work to buy, who had to visit a gallery or show to buy work they gradually decided that they were going to try and trust this PDF or online approach of acquiring artworks. And so, for me, it was much more of a quicker and faster deal and people making up their minds.
[00:21:03] As I said, I haven't really stopped. What I didn't do was travel. So, a lot of the installations that I did happen on FaceTime or video. The whole framing of artwork happens through that too. So, you know, we just had to work with what we had,
improvise. That was how I survived.
[00:21:21] And that was difficult for me because I'm a bit of a perfectionist and I like to see and make sure that things are perfect in my client space. I don't like holes in the walls and I like things done perfectly and hung perfectly. So, in as much as we did the
video calls, I was always quite nervous and I had every reason to be because I remembered that after I got a chance to visit one of my client spaces, I saw little mishaps and finishing that wasn't quite perfect that, you know, had I been there we would never leave a space with that in place.
[00:21:55] So, I had to come back and again get my installers to finish off the edges of works and so on. But after working with my installers for so long now, everybody now sort of understands the way I work, and whether I'm there or not they know how to
finish a job. But it's been a process.
[00:22:10] It's been a journey for us. When we think of COVID, we don't always have to think of COVID in the negative because COVID has really, really also helped us and shifted our thinking.
[00:22:20] Hosts (Adrian/Naitiemu): True. Definitely. We found the same thing, honestly. It's given us a lot of different new ways of thinking about things, and looking at everything we do. And how we work with people and how we can better cater to our community as well. For sure.
[00:22:37] Hosts (Adrian/Naitiemu): As an artist, pricing my work is not easy. And I find that a major concern for many creatives in terms of once I've done my work, how do I price it and why should this price be different from this other artwork? So, I tend to kind of look at the processes that are involved in the creation process plus the time taken plus the growth.
[00:22:58] How do you work with pricing artworks for the creatives that you work with?
[00:23:03] Ifeoma Dike: I work with very few artists directly and some of them. Have never actually had exhibitions and some have. Some of the artists have only shown their work through my PDF, you know, have their work in the homes of my clients and never really had the opportunity for an exhibition.
[00:23:19] But I think various factors and elements to just come into play with that. And you must remember that as an artist, a collector or an art buyer could never really afford your time, you know, the time that goes into you creating that work. And so, if you try to use that as part of the element of the factor, then you will price yourself out of the market.
[00:23:45] And so what I say to artists is this, I have had artists who have sent me their work and I see the details and the quality of the work. And I go, oh, no... we're not going to sell your work without price. You are underpricing yourself because this quality is at any standard, much more valuable than what you've priced it.
[00:24:05] So I would do that for an artist, for example, but I think really to price work, people also consider how much visibility you've had through exhibitions. Either through gallery representation or group shows in independent spaces and so on and so forth.
[00:24:23] And the materials that you use, come into play as well. I think also when you look at the works of people who are at your stage, you could also use that as a guide and then compare your work to theirs.
[00:24:37] You have to be obviously, logically, and realistically rather than, you know, sometimes there are people who I call very confident and sometimes too overconfident for what they present? So, just that really. In Nigeria, we are very fortunate. We have a fantastic collector base. Nigerians wouldn't have to be out of Nigeria to make money. In fact, they make much more money selling at home than [00:25:00] coming to Europe and anywhere else. But I always have a problem with how they do their pricing.
[00:25:04] It's always about the richest person who's paying, you know, who has more money to pay to throw out the work, rather than having a kind of benchmark of how the pricing is done. And so, they're often quite disappointed when they then come abroad and are represented by galleries and find their prices are slashed.
[00:25:22] Or when I tell them, they get quite offended. And the secondary market is not a benchmark. I've had people I went to Ghana the other day and there was a lady I had wanted to work with who had given me the price of work and her response to me was that African artists are doing so well in Europe.
[00:25:40] Look at the secondary market, look at what is happening. And I said, but have you actually checked the market of this particular artist? And see what he's going for. You cannot overprice an artist’s work even greater than what is sold in the secondary market that you are using as an example.
[00:25:54] And of course, there's also the general guide of the size of the work, you know, the measurements and so on. For example, when I went to Austria to the academy of fine art, I was fortunate to have a private tour by a collector and gallerist there who has actually mentored a lot of the artists there and giving them like a benchmark, a guide as to how the price will work. And I know that a huge part of that is the size. So, I can find out from him and send you a document of that. But for me, I have to see the work on a PDF photo and then I send it around and also see the reaction of my clients. But when I see work, I know when an artist is overpricing and underpricing work.
[00:26:36] And a lot has to do with the size of the work. So, of course, you cannot sell 30 by 30 for the price of a hundred by a hundred, for example. So, understanding that and the materials you use actually has to be considered as well. And if you have
somebody, gallery, you know, oftentimes the benchmark now is 50% and no more. But since galleries are no longer doing what they used to do for artists or supporting art. You know, in the olden days they nurture an artist from the beginning to the end.
[00:27:04] I'm not saying it's their fault that they no longer do that, but if you're going to start negotiating your rate with them, I still think that the 50-50 is a bit much. And you can negotiate. I know one artist who does that, who only gives 30, 33% very confidently take it or leave it and galleries are following suit.
[00:27:23] So, I think also the value you give yourself is what other people would accept. If you're logical and you are realistic, if you're not going to be like a rip-off, you know, like taking the piece really. I think don't underestimate your value. You have to
know your worth and the quality of the work that you are creating. That would always
have to be first and foremost on your mind, because I know a lot about artists, especially from Kenya who have been exploited.
[00:27:50] I remembered many years ago going to auction houses and places where people were auctioning work and stating that they were purporting to be supporting artists from East Africa, especially Kenya. And for me to actually visit Kenya in 2015 and went around the artists’ studios, thanks to Cyrus Kabiru who took me around and realized that their reality and what was being presented to us in London or Europe was
not the reality of the artists who lived at home and having to charge the artists to actually have their work consigned to auction and so on was not being taught to us for example.
[00:28:26] So, if I had not visited, I wouldn't have been able to know the facts and that's again where psychology comes in. I don't take anything at face value. I critically always
have to appraise things and also do my due diligence and my own personal research before taking anybody's word for anything. And also goes to show, you know, along with the new trend in African now... various people setting up galleries and you think that their whole agenda or intention is to really promote and sell the work of artists. Whereas for them, it's just a platform. A social ladder to get into that part of the elite world, you know, being cultured and being a sophisticated elite or collector when they're clueless about art and have no idea. In fact, they don't even have the business sense in the first place, let alone one that allows them to actually sell work.
[00:29:17] Real galleries, even when they have no experience or they're not collectors or have no experience of the art world, they automatically employed the best gallery manager with a wonderful experience of the art world to run the gallery. But when you then go and still see the people who founded the galleries being there themselves, just
know that you have to run.
[00:29:37] So, I say to artists, other people's wealth or their perceived wealth is not yours. Do you understand? The agenda is always different from yours. And so, your agenda has to be formless and your agenda would be, if you want to sell your wealth, you want to go to a gallery or galleries that can do that for you.
[00:29:54] If you want your work to be promoted, go to institutions, you have to go to galleries, that have those contesting connections and not take their word for it. And also, as an artist, do your own due diligence. Galleries always have more than one artist
on their roster. It is for you to actually write to those artists or ring them up just to find out exactly what their experiences are and how many pieces of their work have been sold and what institutions they've shown their work to and what sort of collector base they have access to.
[00:30:24] Gone are the days where, you know, the Renaissance period where you had the Renaissance patronage. Artists didn't have to think about working to earn money because they were paid a salary. And so, didn't have to have to worry about survival. But in today's world, it is not the same.
[00:30:41] Do your own due diligence and ensure that you are trusting your work in the hands of a professional. Professional doesn't necessarily mean that just because it just
started means that they can't be professionals, you can be. If you're setting up a gallery, for it to be a commercial gallery, you have to work towards that. And ensure that obviously selling work would be a huge part of that for the galleries because they have this overhead to pay for. You don't know what people's agenda are.
[00:31:07] People come in for all sorts of reasons. Some people have backers, financial backers. You don't know where people's money are coming from or how they're being funded. And that is not your business really. What should be your business is if they have artists on the roster, what exactly it is they're doing for those artists? And how
they're promoting those artists and also how they are helping artists to survive. Really.
[00:31:29] Hosts (Adrian/Naitiemu): Absolutely. Thank you. That's so insightful and so excited for everyone who's going to hear that. And I'm sure that will be useful for artists of all levels as well.
Physical vs online galleries; what is the future?
[00:31:41] Hosts (Adrian/Naitiemu): What about going into the pandemic? What about then, physical galleries versus online galleries? What is the future of art spaces?
[00:31:51] Ifeoma Dike: I think they would bring in different qualities. But I think that there is no way that we can live without physical galleries, to be honest, because art is best seen physically the images never do art justice, that's fact. The thing with online is that thanks to COVID, art buyers and collectors are more trusting in terms of making
purchase using that platform.
[00:32:18] In order to truly, and really appreciate the quality of artwork, sometimes you need to see the work physically. And so, the physical space will definitely still be in need. However, how galleries are run is a different matter. So, there are now various
ways in which galleries can exist, but without having to bear the cost. You know, the sole cost of running a gallery yourself, do you understand? Chrome web place, for example, gives you a platform as a gallery to share space and therefore share your overheads. Just think that there are now more dynamic ways in which one could run a physical space but without bearing the brunt of what it means to have a gallery space by yourself on your own, you know? And I think that's the future now for galleries. I mean, commercial galleries don't have to because they sell very important artists, Picassos and the Basques of the world.
[00:33:19] And so have tons of money and don't really need to worry. And I don't say that because the art world is so unpredictable. For people who buy art or investment, I say the same to them. Just make sure you buy what you like because when it doesn't sell, you're stuck with it.
[00:33:35] But no, for sure.
[00:33:36] I don't see art existing for the digital worlds and everything, but the NFTs and so on of the world, it's a different discussion and debate. But for visual art, as it
currently stands online platform is important.
[00:33:51] It's not the same, socially as well. You wanna go out to a gallery or an art space and have a look at art and, you know, it's a different feeling. It's a different experience than when you're sitting in front of your screen, looking at a piece of art.
The details of the work are missed. The whole intricates of the work, you don't get. The energy of the work, you don't get. So, I don't think anything will beat that at all. And you know, we are social beings and we need that. You can't be in front of your computer, 24 7, looking at art and not have to see your friends.
[00:34:22] It's also something you can enjoy with your friends. And then there are people who are already doing that at home. They have like a soiree in the house where they showcase art and invite people around to... you know, you can't all gather in front of your screen looking at art. Perhaps it's a mindset which might shift over time, but I don't think that will be shifting any time soon.
[00:34:42] Hosts (Adrian/Naitiemu): Well, it's interesting, first of all, even digital art can look better in person if it's presented on the correct hardware that it should be presented on rather than a phone screen, for example.
[00:34:55] Hosts (Adrian/Naitiemu): It's good that you've got into that part of it as well. You mentioned you know certain technologies emerging technologies. Is there an overlap with what you are doing? Is it a totally different industry? Is your industry affected by it or, what's the feeling?
[00:35:11] Ifeoma Dike: NFT, it's something that is driven by the blockchain and investors in the blockchain market. Personally, the idea of having digital work instead of tangible work is really not my idea of appreciating art. Plus I'm not big on digital art anyway. I like to see work physically and I also like to see details. It doesn't matter what anybody says. Digitalizing art, it's not the same as seeing an oil painting on canvas for me or a sketch.
[00:35:41] My work is based on my passion. It is not my passion, so I can't drive it.
[00:35:46] People always come to me, oh, you know, please help me sell work. And I go, I'm not a sales person. But the reason why it feels as if I'm a salesperson, is that my passion can be quite intoxicating and very addictive. So, people who buy into it, buy into it and then they buy work. The way they react is based on my passion for what I'm trying to promote or showing to them. A lot of artists are creating digital work to align with the whole NFT movement and so on. And for people who are digitally minded and have a passion for that, that's a space for them.
[00:36:18] Currently, my collectors, it isn't an option for them. But not to say that it isn't taking shape. It's quite popular especially in Africa. A lot of young African artists have picked up in fact much more than European counterparts.
[00:36:34] Africans have always been very keen on digital stuff. You know, if you look at the whole money market or the MPESA that you have in Nairobi and so on and all that. Yeah, it kicked off in Africa. We have a very young demographics.
[00:36:48] And so, the drive and passion for this is huge there. The only problem that they face is a lack of investment and investors. I mean, Nigeria is the second [00:37:00] largest blockchain source of providers in the world second to, I dunno which country and that's why. So, the things that may not work on the continent has giving us advantage to a certain extent.
[00:37:12] I have to say that I'm really proud because every time I travel, I become even prouder of being a Nigerian. Because of the way we have embraced our own and ourselves and developing our own and showcasing it to the world rather than the other way around trying to make us look more European or foreign in order to sell. Whereas selling our culture, traditions, everything, you know, to the world and they're buying into it.
[00:37:36] And so, it is what I find happening in Nigeria now, like that whole investment in our own and our culture and our people. Now look at the music industry, look at Nollywood, look at, you know, even art where in a way, self-sufficient in that way. Where people are coming to source from Nigeria and then bring to whatever they are rather than us leaving.
[00:37:58] You know, the whole blockchain is a great example of that. That we always take the disadvantages in our various parts and turn that into an opportunity that gives us not just fiscal advantage, but an advantage to the world as well.
[00:38:12] We have a lot of talent and opportunities there but I think there's that whole colonial mentality of seeking external validations beyond our continent when we have
everything. People outside our continent need us much more than we'll ever need them.
[00:38:27] If we have the right leadership and government in place. We as individuals have to now really start looking within for our own success rather than having to depend and rely on the external and people out of the continent for such support and opportunities that we already have.
Ethics in art
[00:38:45] Hosts (Adrian/Naitiemu): And how do you ensure ethics when working with the different collectors that you work with?
[00:38:51] Ifeoma Dike: In the olden days, artists in the Renaissance period were paid to work. Pieces were commissioned by patrons, you know, rich patrons from those times. So, artists never really had to promote their work or go out seeking galleries or platforms to do that because they had patrons who did that for them. Today's world is different, artists have to survive. A lot of them would like to depend on their crafts or their work for survival, which is very difficult.
[00:39:19] A psychology student would tell you that a huge part of our training includes ethics. We have to work ethically. And so, every process even from your research and everything, you have to go through to the ethics board. You have to submit to the ethics board and have your project approved before you can actually go ahead and do
it, especially one that has to do it with human interactions. In my practice and how I work. I work ethic. Like I could only work with galleries who do the same. If I hear, for example, that a gallery hasn't paid their artists. When I know I paid them, I cut them off. When I hear that curators or dealers are mistreating artists, I cut them off. If I also know that artists have not been loyal to the galleries who have done so much for them and they're having to abandon them when they're most needed, then I don't work with the artists.
[00:40:11] It's a difficult one because the art world is a dog-eat-dog world. It's ruthless. It's not for the faint-hearted. And so, ethics is a huge problem but that doesn't mean that you cannot as an individual cultivate your own way of working and deciding how you're going to work around... and the sort of partnership and collaborations you're going to build with people.
[00:40:32] Hosts (Adrian/Naitiemu): Thank you so much for sharing all your knowledge and experience.
[00:40:35] Ifeoma Dike: Thank you. Just let me know however I can support you outside this. I'm happy to.
[00:40:39] Hosts (Adrian/Naitiemu): Thank you very much.
[00:40:41] Hosts: Coming up next time is professor Mugendi M'Rithaa, a transdisciplinary industrial designer, consultant, educator, and researcher currently teaching at Machakos University, Kenya. Mugendi is the president emeritus and convenor of the Senate of the world design organization. He's a founding member of the network of African designers and is associated with a number of other international networks focusing on design.
[00:41:08] He has a special interest in the pivotal role of design thinking in advancing the developmental agenda on the African continent.
[00:41:16] If you have any ideas for episodes we should do, or people we should host on the show, please let us know. We're really, really interested in hearing your thoughts. And if you've made it this far, a review would mean so much to us as well on whichever
platform you are listening to us on. Or even a recommendation to one of your friends or through a tweet.
[00:41:39] We hope to get these stories out there to more people. I'm Adrian Jankowiak. And my co-host is Naitiemu. This episode was edited by David King'ori with music by Ngalah and Mercy Barno. Thank you for tuning in to Afrika Design.
Produced by Nairobi Design Week
Hosts: Naitiemu and Adrian Jankowiak
Editor: David King'ori
Shorts & Artwork: Felix Owaga
Music: Ngalah Oreyo (@ngalah_oreyo) and Mercy Barno (@merc.b_)