Kenyan artists and gallerists have been waiting to exhale for weeks, following a prolonged election period.
The three major exhibitions that took place last week with one running into the new year, attracted a number of buyers and new artists.
One was for the Kenya Museum Society (KMS), another for the Kenya Arts Diary (KAD) and the third for the Trust for Indigenous Culture and Health (TICAH).
Marla Stone, the art fair co-ordinator said turnout to the ‘Affordable Art Show’ by KMS that opened last Friday at the museum courtyard was the highest ever since the exhibition started in 1996.
Sales also went very well, added KMS chairperson Pat Jentz.
“So far we have made more than Sh3 million, 70 per cent of which will go to the artists. The rest will go towards our construction of a National Taxidermy Laboratory at the museum,” she said, adding that more than 38 per cent of the 324 artworks were sold. She was calculating as people were still arriving to shop for artworks that were being sold for between Sh4,000 to Sh95,000.
This was no surprise as Kenyan art scene is thriving. The show has been popular with young artists hoping to exhibit and sell their works. One reason this year’s show was impressive is the way it was curated. A combination of museum staff and volunteers took charge of specific wall and panel space, grouping the art according to emerging themes, such as music, portraiture, mobility, wildlife, landscapes, sculpture and a few still-life paintings.
There were also fewer established artists exhibiting this year. The known ones included Adrian Nduma, Patrick Kinuthia, Alex Wainaina and Dinesh Revankar.
There were many exhibitors who were under 30 years and relatively unknown. But quite a few combined technical skills with imagination and innovation (like framing their paintings with rubber tyres!).
Another exhibition that opened (without fanfare) at the museum a few days before KMS’ was for the Kenya Arts Diary 2018.
The new diary was launched last Saturday with support from the Heinrich Boell Foundation. This was the first time the diary launch combined with an exhibition curated by the museum.
It was a way of benefiting both the exhibiting artists (since their art was on sale) and the diary which was more effectively promoted than in previous years.
Finally, preparations were underway all this past week at the museum for last night’s (November 9) launch of the multifaceted visual and performing arts showcase organised by TICAH (Trust for Indigenous Culture and Health).
It features two programmes in one: The ‘Uremba’ exhibition is highlighting the beauty of indigenous and contemporary art and culture.
Curated by Eric Manya and Mary Ogembo, the show will feature both contemporary artists (both ‘veterans’ and up-and-comers) as well as indigenous artifacts (mostly on loan from the museum).
The ‘Hekima’ (wisdom) activities will be co-ordinated by Aghan Odero, former managing director of Kenya Cultural Centre. Their design will be to demonstrate the depth and diversity of indigenous cultures, including dimensions of scientific and historical knowledge embedded in tradition.
TICAH’s programme will run through January 2018 and feature films, workshops, talks by both artists and elders, music and storytelling.