Friends of the Arts provide a sale platform for Kenyan artists
- Artists participate in the annual event to showcase their latest work and to sell.
One of the most highly anticipated visual arts event of the year is the annual Friends of the Arts (FOTA).
Held at the International School of Kenya (ISK) it provides a platform for local artists to showcase their work and sell.
ISK, which is situated on a former coffee plantation, offers a spacious setting especially at the new multipurpose exhibition hall located in the school’s new building complex called The Commons.
It’s a well-organised show by a groupofvolunteersknownasFOTA who work for months to make the show a major success.
The artists make no secret of the fact that the main reason most of themlookforwardtotheFOTA show is because of its consistently and has become an event where artists can sell their art work.
There is a mutual agreement between the artists and FOTA to keep the prices of the art “affordable”. FOTA promotes the event, primarily through the ISK channels, encouraging families, staff and friends to attend the weekend show of more than 200 works of Kenyan contemporary art.
This year, FOTA looked low-key in their promotion of the exhibition which featured works by 102 artists, majority of who were Kenyan artists, with works by some Ugandan, Sudanese and British being on display.
The lack of the loud marketing noise was due to security fears. An issue that nearly caused havoc at the entrance of the show where security guards, following ‘orders from above,’ nearly refused entry to established Kenyan artists whose art works was exhibited at the show.
The artists had forgotten to carry their identification cards, which we were mandatory for entrance.
A solution was ultimately found after a senior security man arrived on the scene. And despite the low-key promotion the crowd grew when the doors were officially opened.
The final figures on sales are yet to be announced but from my estimations it compared well to last year’s when more than 80 per cent of the art works was sold, raising millions of shillings.
This year 75 per cent of the sales will go back to each individual artist with FOTA taking 25 per cent, which will partially go to the Dada Rescue Centre and also to assist ISK to covering the costs of hosting visiting artists.
According to the school’s actingcuratorGeff Boyer, the only requirement put upon artists whose works were picked to appear in the show was that they create one small, 40 centimetres by 40 centimetrespaintingespeciallyfortheFOTA show.
Those small works covered one whole wall of the new ISK gallery and served as a major attraction to art ‘shoppers’ who proceeded to buy up almost all of the ‘affordable’ paintings on that wall.
This year, there were many established Kenyan artists in the Show,includingMichaelSoiandThomOgonga, both of whom arenowexhibitingatAllianceFrancaise, as well as 2nd prize winner at this year’s ManjanoArtShowDennisMuraguri,PatrickMukabi and the most venerable veteran Kenyan artist in the exhibition,ZachariahMbutha also participated.
There was quite a substantial number of newcomers this year including Tahir Karmali, sculptor Meshak Oino, Bobea Gallery based Isabellah Mosigisi, quilt artist Mandy Chesterman, Vasinder Phull and Wambui Kamiru, whose installation, Harambee 63, was recently displayed at Kuona and is currently on show in South Africa.
TheFOTA Show allows close followers of Kenyan art world to see who is stuck in a rut and who is advancing into new spheres of experimentation and subject matter.
In this regard, there were some disappointments, especially repetition of work show cased last year.
But there were also new innovative work by artists such as Evans Ngure whose main art material is recycled old computer parts, DVD players, broken thermostats and the classic crushed beer and soda cans.
Adrian Nduma also stepped out of his penchant for abstract expression and painted an endangered species, the Rhino, which had such a look of dignity and strength. One felt the need to protect it from poachers.
TheFOTA show and sale ran through Wednesday, April 16th. Artists can also be followed using the handy listing of all the artists’ contacts assembledbyFOTA.