YSMA wins Museum opening of the Year award

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Story-Ayodele Ojo

The Yemisi Shyllon Museum of Art (YSMA, of the Pan-Atlantic University, Lagos-Nigeria), has been declared the winner of the “Museum opening of the year” awarded by Apollo magazine of The Spectator Group, UK. YSMA came out tops out of six strong contenders and the announcement was made virtually in London due to the ongoing pandemic on Thursday November 19th, 2020.

Installation view of YSMA Ibeju-Lekki, Lagos

The only entrant from the African continent, YSMA is a trailblazer on several fronts opened in 2019 and nested at Pan-Atlantic University on the Lekki peninsula, Lagos, Nigeria is one of few privately funded institutions across Africa that in the past five years have transformed the museum sector on the continent because its focus was to give special attention to educational programming for schools.

The Yoruba prince Yemisi Shyllon – the country’s foremost art collector – donated $1.7m towards its establishment and 15 years of maintenance, along with 1,000 works from his collection. Together with the university’s own holdings, and donations from contemporary Nigerian artists.

The other shortlisted museums were: Aberdeen Art Gallery (Reopened November 2019), The Box, Plymouth (Opened September 2020), British Galleries, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (Reopened March 2020). Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister und Skulpturensammlung bis 1800, Dresden (Reopened February 2020), KBR Museum, Brussels (Opened September 2020

Shyllon’s gift has ensured that the museum boasts one of the most impressive permanent collections in Nigeria – ranging from contemporary West African artists such as El Anatsui to historic sculptures, with particularly rich holdings of Nigerian modernists such as Bruce Onobrakpeya and Uche Okeke – housed in a smart red-concrete building with some 1,200 sq m gallery space, designed by the Spanish-Nigerian architect Jess Castellote, the museum’s inaugural director.

Toyin Ojih Odutola

Ironically the Artist of the year award also went to an artist originally from Nigeria, ToyinOjih Odutola was born in the city of Ile-Ife in south-western Nigeria, moving with her family to California in 1990 at the age of five. Faced with unfamiliar English idioms and local slang, she has explained that drawing quickly became a communicative tool – a way of making sense of a new world.

Apollo magazine was founded in 1925 and published monthly, is one of the world’s oldest and most respected magazines on the visual arts. Its scope of coverage ranges from antiquities to contemporary work, as well as providing in-depth discussion of the latest art news and debates; exclusive interviews with the world’s greatest collectors and artists; expert information on the market, authoritative guidance on collecting, and reviews and previews of exhibitions worldwide.

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