One and a half hours drive out of Lagos toward Epe town, eastward on the Lekki Motorway is a relatively small sign that marks our destination, Pan-Atlantic University. I have accepted the kind invitation of Hugh and Robin Campbell (Nigerian Field Society and AOT) to meet the designing architect and director, Jess Castellote, of the almost opened Yemisi Shyllon Museum of Art.
Our exuberant, over 60, host proudly states that he is beginning his second life. After a full career as an architect, he recently completed a PhD in art history and has taken the position of director of the Shyllon Museum. His enthusiasm is infectious and our small group hangs onto his every word.
What does it take to open the first of its kind university art museum in Nigeria? Vision, donations, and dedication for starters! The vision began in 2014 when Prince Yemisi Shyllon proposed a university museum to house Nigerian art. Prince Shyllon has one of the most important private collection with an estimated 7000 works of Nigerian art and donated 1000 artworks (visit to Prince Shyllon’s private collection in 2012) to the museum with a donation toward construction and long term management of the museum. Prince Shyllon’s collection includes modern painting and sculptures by Ben Enwonwu, Bruce Onobrakpeya, Olanrewaju Tejuoso, Yusuf Grillo, Peju Alatise, Osogbo artists, and traditional art such as bronzes from Benin and royal crowns of Yorubaland.
Mr. Castellote begins the tour by explaining the dimensions of the museum, it is a big square box, 30x30x11 meters with only two windows. The stained rusty-red concrete is reminiscent of West African laterite soil, which presents an impressive contrast against the vast open and green campus. The architecture is something like a fortress but Mr. Castellote explains the design allows for insulation against tropical weather, provides security, and gives the visitor a chance to leave the outside totally behind them and enter into an art experience without distraction. The indoor area is designed with open and fluid space so that the visitor can experience a work of art from different angles and levels. Mr. Castellote explains,“Spectators are a part of the spectacle.”
The museum focus is to learn about Nigerian art and heritage through continuity from tradition to contemporary. The emphasis is on education programmes, which is intended to bring 25 students from various local public schools for 200 days of the year. With a purchase of a bus, youth will be collected from public schools to experience art in all its forms i.e. a special youth pavilion is being built for classes. (see above photo)
As we leave the museum, we meet Olanrewaju Tejuoso, a Nigerian artist whose work configures wood and discarded empty sachets water, biscuit wraps, and empty bags of processed foods, polythene and foils. This installation will be greet visitors. (Watch Olanrewaju’s video about discarded sachets of water in Nigeria and his art.)
Now Nigerians and visitors have a beautiful addition to its thriving art scene besides art galleries to appreciate an astonishing collection of Nigerian art. The official opening of Yemisi Shyllon Museum of Art is October 19, 2019.
From October 19th 2019, when the YSMA will be open to the general public, visits to the museum to experience the best of Nigerian arts will always be free to all thanks to the partners and friends of the YSMA from Tuesday to Saturday.
Tuesday 10am – 4pm
Wednesday 10am – 4pm
Thursday 10am – 4pm
Friday 10am – 4pm
Saturday 10am – 4pm