Arts & Entertainments

With Gemini Arts Gallery, Akinnire seeks mass education, enlightenment

Since its opening in November last year, Gemini Arts Gallery has continued to live up to its promise as an art house committed to mass education and enlightenment through art, hosting major shows, including the Grand Opening exhibition titled ‘After Nature’, featuring works by Uche Uzorka, Olumide Onadipe and Samson Akinire; and ‘Emergency’, featuring works by members of the acclaimed Circle of Independent Artist (CIA), a body of seasoned independent artists, graduates from Auchi Polytechnics, Edo State, who are bonded in tradition, materials, techniques and training but creating with repeated meditating motion of materials forms and space.

Strategically situated in the heart of Lagos Island behind the National Museum, Gemini has become a hub for collectors, art enthusiasts and tourists, and it is, no doubt, well positioned for the promotion of art to both local and global markets. A visit to the serene art house, situated at 27/29, King George V Road, Onikan, Lagos, shows and affirms its commitment to ensuring that everybody who comes through the doors of Gemini Arts Gallry can be touched by the far reaching effects of Art through not just the works that adorn the gallery but also the series of exhibitions.

The gallery is home to over 200 works, including works by Wale Alimi, Samson Akinloye, Rotimi Akinloye, Emmanuel Dudu, John Ogbeta, Donald Onuoha, George Edozie, Bob Nosa, Duke Asidere and others who the artist who he said “are artists I have respect.” Briefing journalists during a media chat held at the Gallery, the founder and director, Raphael Akinnire, said that Gemini Arts Gallry will serve as an epicenter for arts education, noting that many artists across the various genres need knowledge to make the most of their talents.

“Part of our core value is mass education and enlightenment through art, because we see art as a window created by artists into a place or state beyond ones current location powered by the imagination and skillful rendition of the artist, art is indeed a travel medium, taking one on a journey. It could be educative, spiritual or entertaining; whatever it is to you we are poised to bring this on in the most conducive environment.

“There are many people who can draw and do wonderful artistic works, but do not have the required education,” Akinnire said. He disclosed that setting up an arts gallery is something that was in his mind for almost two decades. “I remember in my higher school days when the dream began to bubble in me.

My elder brother is a visual artist, while my father is a draughtsman. My mother can also draw very well. My elder brother, Rotimi Akinnire, always made some works that sold out. “I used to help him market or sell some of his works in those days,” he
said, adding that the first gallery he met in those days was Signature Art Gallery, Ikoyi. According to Akinnire, who is also into furniture works, framing and other art related business, it was at Signature Art Gallery, Ikoyi, that he made his first break. “In those days we were not allowed to go out carelessly. But for the love of art, we’d always device excuses to go to visit one of our aunties.

That was how I escaped and began to visit galleries at Ikoyi and the environs. At Signature my works appealed to the owner. He therefore encouraged me and urged me on. So, whenever my brother had any work I’d go show him. The first time he bought my work, it sounded great to me. From the several works he bought, I made a huge profit. Then I could buy a jean and a T-shirt. Funny enough, this is the story

Limitedtoday. “From there, Signature encouraged me to search for other artists, buy from them and sell to him. That was how I got to meet the Dudu brothers and other Ajegunle based artists. I’d collect, sell and move on. This was how I also began to meet other art collectors, gallery owners and so on,” he recalled. Thus, with time his art scope began to grow and took the front burner. Akinnire, who is an avid art collector, disclosed that he never intended to own a gallery, however, the prompting began to gnaw in him when he travelled to Europe. In Europe, the passion for art grew with utmost intensity, and naturally, the urge come back home also propped up.

“I saw that my spirit still dwelt in the art. Then when I came back, it was one of the worst moments of my life. I tried to overcome it. It was almost fruitless. Then I went back to America, and a month later I came back to Nigeria. But then my elder brother said to me, ‘Raphael, I think there is something calling you back to Nigeria.’ And so it was, “ he enthused. Thus, he esablished the Gemini Art Gallery, which, today is carving a niche for itselft. And given his experience at home and abroad, Akinnire is making bold, instructive statement in the Nigerian and global art scene.

“Our gallery is different. We use the educational medium to enlighten our environment and to enlighten the young ones and even the older ones. Our presentation is different from others. We are redefining art using the educative side of it because gallery is not all about the space alone but the impact on people and our environment. “If we want to go for the international community, we have to start from here,” he said.

“The artworks here are my collections. I have been collecting art for over 17 years now,” he further stated. However, for Akinnire, having been an art collector for years before opening the gallery, Gemini Art Gallery offers him a platform for connection and for expressing himself. “The gallery is a medium for me to express myself more. It is more like a station where people can reach me instead of me taking what I have to people’s space.” He disclosed that the gallery is working on a show for Donald Onuoha on June 4, 2022. “He is one of Nigeria’s finest artists. We have done a series of exhibitions as well.

In 15 years, we have done like 10 exhibitions, but since opening last November we have done up to four shows,” he said. On his next level for the gallery, Akinnire said: “My next level is to take our art to that global space where our voices can be heard, where we can use art as a currency exchange, and where we can see value to what we do because art itself is about value.”




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