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Navigating the Nigerian Creative Landscape: In Conversation with Olufisayo Bakare

Within Nigeria’s creative scene, Olufisayo Bakare stands as a multifaceted force. Born in Lagos to a family with a rich art and design heritage, her interests took her through the intricacies of various industries. From aspiring artist to entrepreneur and curator, Olufisayo is the visionary behind the brand, interior Living (Intlvng) and The Yellow of Lagos.


In our conversation with Fisayo, she delves into her journey in the creative market, while giving insights to the significance of connections between galleries, curators, and artists, moving beyond mere investments to emphasize the vital need for genuine relationships, trust-building, and collaborative structures within the art world.


Olufisayo Bakare | Courtesy of Fisayo Bakare
Olufisayo Bakare | Courtesy of Fisayo Bakare

Art Report Africa: Can you share a bit about your journey in the creative space ?


Fisayo Bakare: My journey started with aspirations of being an artist, a path I was discouraged from pursuing. This led me to interior design, where I discovered my affinity for the creative space. After completing my undergraduate and master's degrees in interior design, I delved into the comprehensive world of architecture and property development. My experiences ranged from holistic practices, including financial modeling and marketing. In 2018, a creative boredom led me to new ways of showcasing my geometrically morphed metal sculptural elements, the "fractals” which led to the birth of “The Yellow of Lagos”. Following this, I got an opportunity to curate the Yemisi Shyllon collection, marking a significant transition into the world of curation.


ARA: How did you manage that transition without any formal education or guidance? It must have been quite a learning curve. Did you face any challenges during that period?


Fisayo Bakare: Absolutely. I had no mentor, and navigating the Nigerian terrain can be challenging, the struggle was real, and I understood it but my inclination towards detailed documentation and research naturally aligned with the role. It just kind of felt right because it was something i am naturally akin to. While I now hold a certification from Sotheby’s, I initially had no master plan; decisions were governed by the core of my artistic self. However, at some point, I took a step back, because, again, there was no real master plan of what to do and at which stage to do it because the core of me is still the artists that has a lot of emotion that needs to come out and be expressed in a certain way. Well, I put a freeze on everything. I wasn't doing anything, not even on social media. I spent a year in Abuja consulting on an interior design startup. During this time, as I listened to friends sharing their grievances, I realized we faced similar challenges and so I considered going into artist management, then i decided that I was going to create a platform called Creative Economy Africa.



ARA: Can you elaborate on how “The Yellow of Lagos” came about?


Fisayo Bakare: In 2018, a creative boredom propelled me to step into a world of color even though I had presented myself as an afro minimalist and up until then, I had crafted my fractals in black, neon green, and white so I decided to explore yellow. As a ploy to market my newly crafted yellow fractals, I embarked on a month-long Instagram campaign posting a bunch of yellow things using the hashtag "The Yellow of Lagos" on Interior living’s instagram page. As the campaign unfolded, what started as a personal creative journey morphed into a movement. It wasn't just about the color yellow; it became a celebration of authenticity and the vibrant spirit of Lagos. The response was overwhelming, with the community actively engaging, sharing, and contributing to the project. From this the brand “The Yellow of Lagos" was birthed.



ARA: How did this lead to the coffee table book “The A-Z of Lagos”?


Fisayo Bakare: The book "The A-Z of Lagos" emerged from a conversation with a friend who was like “hey, this needs to be a coffee table book” so i created "The A-Z of Lagos" a coffee table picture book

highlighting the places, local flora, festivals, and other elements from 'A' to 'Z' familiar to the city of Lagos. Which was endorsed by the Lagos State Ministry of Tourism.


The Yellow of Lagos Book
The Yellow of Lagos Book

ARA: Creative Economy Africa? Tell me more about that.


Fisayo Bakare: Creative Economy Africa is a platform where creatives can network and share opportunities. It is not an association; but I want it to be a resource hub. I guess it's the mentor that you wish you had, but now you have. It's about building bridges across the creative sector, providing a space for dialogue and collaboration. it's not fully structured yet, just three weeks old on WhatsApp and still evolving, but I see it as a pop up where creatives networks. It'll focus on the lesser-known areas in the creative industry like art, architecture etc.


ON THE FUTURE OF AFRICAN ART MARKET, COLLECTORS AND ARTIST


ARA: Interesting! Fisayo, what is your vision for the art industry?


Fisayo Bakare: Drawing from my experience in both the art and design worlds – my vision is to merge the realms of art and design, museum-style. I want to institutionalize the perpetuation of knowledge. My aim is to offer a different, interactive experience where knowledge is institutionalized. While galleries thrive on the buying and selling aspect, my focus leans more towards the academic side of art, collecting and why museums exist. The ultimate goal is to make The Yellow of Lagos an immersive and

interactive experience, like the new museum and the Ice Cream Museum. I want to explore African and Nigerian cultures, which are incredibly diverse but I believe The Yellow of Lagos can deliver in a way that hasn't been done before. For instance, during the book launch we created a booth with motifs from the book for an immersive photo experience and it was well-received.


Olufisayo Bakare | Courtesy of Fisayo Bakare
Olufisayo Bakare at the Invisible Hands Exhibition at the Yemisi Shyllon Museum, Lagos | Courtesy of Fisayo Bakare

ARA: Could you share insights into the dynamics of art collecting in Africa?


Fisayo Bakare: In the Nigerian economy, because I can't really speak for the continent, but Nigeria specifically, the collector falls into two categories: those who view art through the lens of buying and selling, possibly flipping pieces for profit, and those who collect because they are genuinely drawn to the work. The latter group often sees themselves as an extension of the art, inseparable from it. I recently spoke with a collector who owns more artwork than wall space across 20 different locations. He envisions partnering with Lagos State to establish a Metropolitan Museum, housing his vast collection maybe during or after his lifetime. Collectors like this, actively bought during times when art was sold on the side of the road or in traffic, because they appreciated it, have amassed extensive collections over a long tenure and do not see them as investment.

ARA: What are your thoughts on the traditional buying and selling?


Fisayo Bakare: Personally, I've never been very business-savvy, perhaps the reason why trading art never resonated with me. My preference leans more towards the academic aspects of the arts, in conversations about the arts, teaching, and walking people through the why behind each selection. I never set out to be a seller, even with my own work. I find myself too attached to the things I create. I'd much rather give my creations away than sell them. It might be different for those who create with the intention of selling, but for me, the emotional attachment to what I make surpasses the desire to sell it.



ARA: With the shift in artists directly engaging with collectors online, bypassing galleries and consultants, do we adapt to this new mindset where artists have seemingly left traditional structures behind? Or should collecting be viewed primarily as support, investment, or a balance of both in this evolving art landscape?


Fisayo Bakare: I believe social media is a powerful tool that should be used carefully. Art sales fundamentally rely on the artist's work, and there's a certain prestige attached to being a collector. However, systems need to glorify the artist and bring them into the reality of the ecosystem. While artists can circumvent galleries and sell their work independently, we, as West Africans, can bring dynamism by thinking more long-term. This involves creating contracts, exploring collaborations, and reinvesting proceeds into the artist's business. Establishing fair documentation is crucial, as both artists and galleries play integral roles. A gallery exists because artists create work, and if an artist stops, it impacts the gallery. Fairness is essential, considering artists may face challenges like depression, affecting their productivity. Both parties need to understand their place in the ecosystem. The interplay between artists and art professionals is indeed complex and requires careful navigation to foster a healthier and more sustainable ecosystem.


ARA:What advice would you offer to galleries seeking to navigate the evolving landscape of the art industry, fostering meaningful relationships with artists, and enhancing their impact beyond traditional buying and selling models?


Fisayo Bakare: Creating a rapport between artists and professionals involves multi-layered strategies. Programs should include voices from both collectors and creators through panel discussions that address art trends. Collecting and documenting data should be consistent, and more books and interviews should break down the elitist bubble surrounding art, making it more accessible. Educating through the arts is vital, and galleries can generate an exchange of ideas while making money. Publishing a yearly compendium, limited edition, could include works that didn't exhibit at the gallery but contribute to the conversation. Making the assimilation of the art world more accessible with a wider range of voices will foster growth and build bridges across different sectors authentically.


 

ABOUT OLUFISAYO BAKARE


Olufisayo Bakare is an independent curator, researcher and art management professional who lives and works in Nigeria. Through her practice which focuses on evidence-based ethnographic research, she adopts the use of quantitative and qualitative research methods to support cultural policy. For over a decade, Bakare's research contributions continue to inform my academic and curatorial work. By engaging the works of indigenous artist and maker-communities, she actively contributes to the academic community in Nigeria with a specialised curriculum focused on Pre-Colonial art history. Her recent work for the Lagos State Government engaged with cultural policy, and the creative economy in the area.


Interview by Akua Taiwo

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