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“Mydrim is the bedrock of Nigerian arts”

Inside the gallery with artworks on display

Apart from being one of the oldest galleries in Nigeria, the history of art growth in Nigeria cannot be complete without mentioning Mydrim Gallery. The gallery has contribution immensely to the development of Nigerian art and this cannot be denied as they have left an imprint on sands of time.
For twenty-five years, the gallery has occupied 74B, Norman Williams Street, Ikoyi, Lagos, Nigeria and a lot of people are not aware that it actually started from a store on 33A, Bode Thomas, Surulere, Lagos, before it moved to its present location.

The gallery
The walls of the gallery have been graced by the works of masters such as Yusuf Grillo, Bruce Onobrapeya, El Anatsui, David Dale, Abayomi Barber, Jimoh Akolo, late Bisi Fakeye, Kolade Oshinowo, Muraina Oyelami, Jimoh Buraimoh and Gani Odutokun, including established artists like Abiodun Olaku, Olusegun Adejumo, Sam Ovriati, Duke Asidere, Zinno Orara, Olu Ajayi and Gab Awusa to name but a few, as well as the upcoming artists.
In December 1, 1992, Sinmidele Adesanya, a practicing lawyer and an avid collector; who left law to pursue a career in art, officially opened the gallery and ever since, it has organised over seventy exhibitions.
Inside the gallery
Let It Flow was the first exhibition held by the gallery; a group show and the artists who participated were: Olusegun Adejumo, Femi Adetunji, Ini Brown, Bunmi Ilemobade, Sam Ovriati and Iyabode Roberts.  
The gallery has remained a major player in the Nigerian art industry with the keen oversight of Adesanya, who is highly regarded for making art relevant and accessible to a contemporary audience.
While reminiscing on how the gallery was established, Adesanya who spoke passionately about her journey, told Arts and Culture Place that Mydrim was born out of passion “for the fine arts and recognized the incredible talent of Nigerian artist. Unfortunately, that time art profession was generally not regarded as one of the noble professions and the society did not accord much importance to the artists or their works.”
At the Eko Art Expo
When she opened the gallery, the art profession she said “was frowned at and we were like town criers. We had to tell people that this is art come and buy art. As the objective of the gallery was to rectify this anomaly and create a platform for educating Nigerians about the importance and the value of art. The gallery also sought to discover and promote new artists and also to showcase the works or emerging and established artists.”
The journey, she revealed, has been an extremely challenging one, but twenty-five years later, Mydrim Gallery has contributed significantly to the development of visual arts in Nigeria. “The promulgation of art as a great store of value has been established and artists are now held in high esteem. The works of Nigerian artists are now sought after all over the world,” she said.
Adesanya during the press preview of the Masters' exhibition recently in Lagos
Mydrim Gallery remains at the forefront of providing art lovers in Lagos and across the country an avenue to discover and acquire important and collectable works of art by African artists. In 2015, the gallery represented Africa at the modern art sector of International Art Dubai Fair in recognition of its involvement with art in Nigeria.
The Gallery also sought to discover and promote new artists and also to showcase the works of emerging and established artists, and this they have done successfully.
Some of the artists who spoke with Arts and Culture Place attest to the achievements and contributions of the gallery in promotion of Nigerian arts and artists.
 “I have known the owner for almost three decades,” recalls Olusegun Adejumo, a full time studio artist who has taken part in over ten group exhibitions at Mydrim. “Mydrim is the bedrock of the artists’ gallery experience that is being enjoyed now.”
To him the gallery “has never been good blowing its own trumpet and I have participated with Mydrim Gallery on many major projects and consulted on a few other not so major projects. So my relationship is that of an artist primarily, art consultant and a gallery owner colleague.
“However, I can name many artists and art businesses that took to the big time from Mydrim platform.”
 Adesanya with Dr. Onobrakpeya and another visitor at Dubai Art Expo
Advising the owner, he said: “The art landscape is changing. It is time to adapt to the new environment but maintain the old values and integrity.”
“They have tremendously contributed to the growth of Nigerian art and many Nigerian artists,” said Ato Arinze who participated in a group show in the gallery, organised by the Society of Nigerian Artists. “Many artists have exhibited there and I have been attending their openings since the late 90s.”
Gab Awusa who started doing business with Adesanya from her house at Adeniran Ogunsaya said the reason the gallery never folded up is due to “sincerity of purpose, and integrity. Mrs Adesanya started by organising a saloon. She is a pioneer of serious art business in Nigeria. The art business is dynamic and is quite challenging, she’s doing her best. Remember she left law practice to pursue career in art.”
The history of art growth in Nigeria he added “cannot be complete without Mydrim occupying a pride place. Mydrim opening exhibition was one major exposure of my paintings to the art community…I was excited to see my works on their walls.  After twenty-five years I believe Mydrim is still a force to reckon with.
Mydrim Gallery offers a range of services including acquisitions, collection management, curatorial and advisory services.
“It has been an extremely challenging journey,” asserted Adesanya. In January 2017 Adesanya curated the EKO ART EXPO for the Lagos State Government.
Adesanya with Bisi Silva and El Anatsui
Mydrim is marking its twenty-fifth anniversary with an incredible exhibition by twelve Nigerian Masters, to share their memories with the public, “such that art lovers, artists, and art students know the source some of those artists’ who steered the course and remained committed and focused to developing the visual arts in Nigeria in the face of monumental challenges.” 
The exhibition of paintings sculptures, mixed media and bead works opens on on Saturday, June 3 to Monday, June 4, 2018, at the Desiderata, plot 5A, Abuja Street, Banana Island, Foreshore Estate, Lagos Nigeria. And about fifty-six works by Yusuf Grillo, El Anatsui, Abayomi Barber, Jimoh Akolo, David Dale, Nike Davies-Okundaye, late Bisi Fakeye, Bruce Ononrakpeya, Kolade Oshinowo, Muraina Oyelami, Jimoh Buraimoh and Gani Odutokun will be on view.
Templars, a law firm, is hosting and sponsoring the preview of the exhibition, while Union Bank of Nigeria is organising a session for about two hundred young artists and art students to interact with the Masters during the course of the exhibition.
“A Nigerian proverb says: ‘A river that does not know its source will soon run dry.’ This exhibition is a display of the works of twelve of Nigeria’s Masters, such that art lovers, artists, and art students know the source some of those artists’ who steered the course and remained committed and focused to developing the visual arts in Nigeria in the face of monumental challenges.
“They made the sacrifices for the present generation of artists. Young artists today need to know the history of those who paved the way for them. We celebrate them today,” she adds.
Inside the gallery with the paintings of Kolade Oshinowo and Segun Aiyesan on walls
Furthermore, Mydrim gallery has organised events, including a series of Nation-wide public lectures on contemporary arts and culture delivered by international speakers, and organised in collaboration with renowned art curator, Bisi Silva, operating at the Institute of Visual Arts and Culture. It inaugurated the Living Masters exhibition in 2017, which was declared open by the Nobel laureate, Wole Soyinka. In 2010, on behalf of the Lagos State government, Mydrim Gallery organised Nigeria at Fifty, a photo exhibition for Nigeria’s 50th Independence Anniversary.
Mydrim Gallery collaborates with art centre Terra Kulture as TKMG to organize an annual art auction for discerning collectors.
By Udemma Chukwuma

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