By Sharon Atieno Onyango
Published October 18, 2015
An annual art-popularising event-cum fundraiser is on the cards of the Nairobi entertainment calendar once again. Lydia Gatundu-Galavu (LGG), the Curator of Contemporary Art at Nairobi National Museum (NNM) and Marla Stone (MS), the Honorary Secretary of Kenya Museum Society (KMS), speak about the event, known as The Affordable Art Show.
What is the affordable art exhibition about?
LGG: The Affordable Art Show is one of the activities of the Kenya Museum Society that is used in raising funds for the National Museums of Kenya (NMK).
When shall the event take place?
LGG: The show shall be held at the Nairobi National Museum from Friday, October 23, to Sunday, October 25. It shall kick off at 6.00PM with a Friday evening party. The next two full days shall be dedicated to the selling of art.
How unique is this event?
LGG: The Affordable Art Show not only displays the work of established artists but also makes it affordable as a ceiling is set on pricing; Sh100 000 (about US$1000) in 2015. Artists submit their work to KMS with lowered prices so as to help the show raise funds for the NMK. The show also provides an opportunity for artists to reflect on and support their museum besides providing an opportunity for emerging artists to showcase their talent in the same space with high profile established artists.
MS: Yes, I would say these are some of the most important aspects of this show.
When did The Affordable Art Show begin?
LGG: It started as an art fair with lots of activities in the 1990s, but stopped during the restructuring and renovation period of NMK in 2005.
MS: We stopped the Art Show in 2006 after a very unsuccessful show; partly unsuccessful because of reduced numbers of volunteers to run the event. We took it up again in 2013; partly because the volunteer pool had both reached a critical mass and also because we were responding to artists who asked us every time we saw them why the show wasn’t running.
How many art shows have been done so far?
LGG: Since the return of the show in 2013 (without the rest of the fair), there have been two shows. This year’s is the third.
MS: KMS has done the show annually since 2013.
Who are the target audience for the exhibition?
LGG: Art lovers, buyers, collectors and artists in Kenya.
MS: We are very interested in helping Kenyan buyers learn about and appreciate the range of art available in the country.
Why do you usually host the show during the last quarter of the year?
LGG: This is a time when the festive mood for end year holidays is setting in; when people are looking for gifts and new collections.
MS: When we re-started the event after the reopening of the Nairobi Museum in 2013, there were few art shows at this time of the year and it worked well in balancing several of our other fundraising activities.
Where does the art to be sold come from?
LGG: The show practically reaches out to artists across Kenya and beyond. Art work comes from Mombasa, Lamu, Kisumu, Kapenguria, Kitale, Kakamega, Thika, Nyeri, Kajiado, Kiambu and as far as Uganda.
How much does the artist take home?
LGG: The show takes 30 -35% and the artists 65%-70%.
How much are you expecting to collect from the art auction?
LGG: After the artists take their share, KMS should collect at least one million shillings (about US$10000).
What will the proceeds collected from the show be used for?
LGG: The proceeds go to museum projects that facilitate research, preservation and dissemination of Kenya’s past and present cultural and natural heritage. There is no other art show in Kenya that does that.
MS: KMS has 3 potential projects, two are related to infrastructure improvements and one to an exhibition, that will be considered by our Council once we know how much the proceeds are.
How does the show promote art?
LGG: By providing visibility to artists (the show is very well attended every year, and by making art affordable to as many Kenyans as possible, encouraging them to continue buying from artists.
How does the fluctuation of the Kenyan shilling against the US dollar affect the selling price of the artwork?
MS: Since the art is local and the prices are in Shillings, the sale should only be affected secondarily (i.e. loss of business capital by potential businesses), if at all.
Why is the show only held in Nairobi?
LGG: Nairobi is where KMS and NMK headquarters are but maybe KMS is better placed to answer this.
MS: Nothing to add to that except that the vast majority of our membership is in Nairobi. However, our support to NMK is not limited to the Nairobi Museum. We have done projects for the other museums across the country.
Do local Kenyans buy art?
LGG: Yes, the show is popular with local buyers.
MS: We are very pleased that more Kenyans are attending the show each year and several of them are buying art, too.
What is the contribution of the expatriate fraternity to the art sector in Kenya?
LGG: The expatriate community has higher number of buyers than its local counterpart. The expats also volunteer their time to assist in organising like this one an event for buyers.
MS: Most of the people who volunteer (we are all volunteering the work that goes into the show) are expatriates. However we have more Kenyans on our planning committee each year, which is really good.