April 18, 2011 – After two tough years, the largest Gallery in East Africa, Gallery Watatu, re-launched with renewed vigour in Nairobi.
Under the hands of artist and CEO designate Kofi Osei, Gallery Watatu is hoping to cash in on the fresh interest currently being directed towards the arts.
The Gallery opened its doors a few years after Kenya’s independence and has been a launch pad for hundreds of local artists since.
Among them is Wanyu Brush, who struck gold at the opening when an Italian collector picked up one of his paintings for a cool Sh2 million.
The purchase of the piece “Never, Never, Never Again” coincides with some of the promises Kofi made as he goes about restructuring the Gallery.
“I want to get Kenyans and East Africans to constitute 50% of Watatu’s markets in five years,” he says, mentioning four core challenges in his bid.
“I would also like to help more Kenyans discover a broader, exciting dimension in the art of acquiring art, to enjoy what one buys and see its potential as an economic asset!”
During the opening, Kenya’s ambassador to the UN Macharia Kamau encouraged artists to paint about Kenya to preserve the country’s history and culture, and tell their stories.
He also encouraged Kenyans to buy art, to promote local talent and as a secure investment in future.
At present, nearly 97% of purchases made at Gallery Watatu are by foreigners.
It was started in 1968 by Jony Waite, Robin Anderson and David Hart. In 1985, they handed over to American lady Ruth Shaffner, who ensured that rather than being moved, the Gallery would be a part of Lonrho House which was being constructed then.
Ruth passed on in 1996 leaving the mantle to her husband Adama Diawara, who has now appointed Kofi to take charge.
Kofi is a long-time associate of Diawara’s and was Watatu’s European agent based in Geneva, Switzerland.
Photo Credits: Susan Wong