Art Buzz February 13, 2012: Sylvester Okwunodu Ogbechie: New book by UCSB art historian is the first to catalog indigenous African art owned by an African collector

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New book by UCSB art historian is the first to catalog indigenous African art owned by an African collector

Source: Art Daily, 2-13-12

Ogbechie catalogs the private collection owned by Femi Akinsanya.

With a new book that formalizes and interprets a collection of indigenous African art owned by an African collector, Sylvester Okwunodu Ogbechie, a professor of history of art and architecture at UC Santa Barbara, is changing the way African art is regarded and valued.

In “Making History: African Collectors and the Canon of African Art” (Milan: 5 Continents Editions, 2012 distributed by Harry N. Abrams, Inc.), Ogbechie catalogs the private collection owned by Femi Akinsanya. Located in Lagos, Nigeria, the collection features 740 pieces, including artworks that originated in Yoruba, Igbo, Urhobo, Cross River, Benin, and the Benue River Valley cultures of Nigeria. The book is published in English and French editions.

“There is a sense in which the idea of African art seems to be restricted to those African artworks that were taken out of the continent during the colonial period,” Ogbechie explained. “When people talk about authentic African art, that’s what they’re referring to –– artworks that are held by Western collectors and museums. Anything that’s owned or held by Africans themselves is considered to be a fake.”

According to Ogbechie, the protocols of authenticating artworks as original have less to do with the history of the works in their indigenous contexts, than with their provenance –– the documentation of the works after they have become part of a collection. Publishing a book like “Making History” is the first step in elevating African artworks held by African collectors from generic objects to works of art that have measurable economic value.

“Someone in Africa could have a piece that belonged to a society that used it as an object of initiation. It has indigenous value, but until it becomes part of someone’s collection, it has no financial value,” Ogbechie continued. “The collector is important to the process of creating value.”…READ MORE

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