Contemporary Kenyan art finds room at Kempinski

Peter Elungat’s work exhibited at Kempinski Hotel in Nairobi. PHOTO | MARGARETTA WA GACHERU | NMG
Peter Elungat’s work exhibited at Kempinski Hotel in Nairobi. PHOTO | MARGARETTA WA GACHERU | NMG 

The hotel’s décor is unapologetically European apart from one elegant painting by Peter Elungat that hangs at the reception. Nonetheless Villa Rosa Kempinski Hotel is gradually getting used to hosting contemporary Kenyan art.

The most exciting venture it did this past year was for the Nairobi branch of this elegant European hotel chain to select David Thuku’s concept of a colourful kaleidoscopic chandelier to hang centrally at its front entrance, right above its Romanesque fountain.

Kempinski’s management began to collaborate with Kuona Trust three years back to host around 15 Kenyan artists for a week. During that time, the artists worked in public spaces all around the hotel, met the guests and talked about their art. That was a great success.

For two years running, the artists painted every day for that week. Then the Hotel offered them the upstairs Ballroom for a day and a night.

The day was for public viewing and the evening was when people were free to select their favourite paintings (or sculpture) and even bid in a silent auction for the art.

The first year, the silent auction was quite effective. There was even a competition for the best works to win first and second prize. The second year, somehow the auction was forgotten and so was the competition. One only hopes that a third time around will allow the artists to have another silent auction and a competition too.

Last night, Kempinski’s Ballroom was again the site of a Kenyan art exhibition. Curated by William Ndwiga of the Little Art Gallery, the show featured a dozen East African artists.

Sponsored by the Guaranty Trust Bank (Kenya) Ltd, which has been supporting visual artists in the bank’s home country, Nigeria, since 1991, the Kempinski show is the first time GTB has lent its support to Kenyan art and Kenyan-based artists. More than 50 paintings were on display last night in the ballroom.

The artists involved included Michael Soi, Patrick Kinuthia, Anne Mwiti, Peter Elungat, Emily Odongo, Michael Musyoka, Yassir Ali, Douglas Musyoke, Coster Ojwang, Jjuuko Hoods, Joshua Mainga and Haji Chilongo.

GTB Kenya’s Managing Director, Ibukun Odegbaike described the show as the “first step” in her bank’s support for Kenyan art.

She also invited the artistsy to look into the bank’s online art gallery called Art 635 where they can apply to display and sell their art right there.