Art and food have always had a harmonious relationship – just look at how many art pieces have been inspired by events in the Bible, such as famously depicted by Leonardo Da Vinci, Pablo Picasso and even Pierre Auguste Renois – all have created art pieces about breaking bread. The interplay of food and art has never been more relevant than it is today, with a chef’s artistic presentation of a plate of food considered art as well.
You don’t have to eat at a rigid environment like a museum to see excellent art. Restaurants around the world are treating their diners to their own art collections, and even rotating exhibitions. Taking it further, the newest edition to the Osteria restaurants in Nairobi has transformed their charming Karen restaurant, located in a beautiful stone house built in 1923, into an art gallery as well.
As you enter into the compound just past Karen roundabout on Ngong Rd., a cobblestone path lures you into the converted charming stone house where the ground floor has been transformed into the cozy and quaint interior that Osteria has become to be known for. Upstairs, at the end of the winding staircase, is an art lovers dream – a gallery, which showcases the best of African art.
African Art – The new frontier
Renowned painter, Bezalel Ngabo, is just one of the many names that are putting African art on the international map, and in a way, revolutionizing the art business on the continent.
Originally from the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Fine Art major Ngabo has been painting since 1996. “It’s been quite a long time,” a calm and soft-spoken Ngabo reminisces.
Ngabo’s paintings evoke feelings of solitude, joy and showcase vivid ideas. Through the use of contrast, Ngabo uses light and dark shades to tell a story. His use of colour and their different tones evoke meaning. Incorporating vivid textures is also a favourite technique of Ngabo’s, and is also distinctingly his signature, “It’s impossible for me to complete a painting without at least one stroke of the palette knife,” he chuckles.
Ngabo hopes to inspire art lovers through the positive messages in his forthcoming exhibiton, opening on June 2nd. Entitled “The Hidden Man,” the painter hopes people will leave the exhibition with a renewed perspective of themselves and life in general.
Ngabo’s cool and confident composure, casual demure, at first glance, does not seem that of a world class painter who’s work easily fetches over Sh 500,000 per piece. However, the painter’s patient aura testifies that only great art can only be created and nurtured through patience.
Ngabo will be the first to admit, that it’s been a challenging journey and how lucky he is as an artist to not feel pressure to make money. “If your mind is set on how much you will gain, the more you will lose in creativity,” explains Ngabo. Artists walk a dangerous line of feeling comfortable and only creating pieces that they know have had appeal and sold before, sometimes, even repeating a painting. “Your latest painting should always be better than your last, that’s the only way an artist can grow their creativity and progress in the art business.
Unlike the thriving art business in other Western countries, where talented painters regularly sell their pieces for hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not, even millions – the African art scene has certainly lagged in terms of business sense.
There is plenty of great talent on the continent, but people in Africa are not taking art as a serious investment, and that’s exactly what artists like Ngabo and the team at Osteria Art Gallery want to revolutionize. “African art is actually a new trend on the international scene, and the demand is high,” shares Ngabo. There’s no reason why the same painting will fetch a higher price in an auction abroad than at an auction in Africa. Africa is the new frontier, even in art.
Osteria Art Gallery
Exclusively representing only a few talented artists and regularly holding exhibitions of other emerging artists in hopes of getting their names out there, Osteria Art Gallery in Karen hopes to see Kenya and Africa embrace the art business in a serious manner.
Art is not only the business of the priviledged. Collecting art is an investment, just like if you were investing in buying plots. The value of an art piece will appreciate depending on the demand of the artist, their artistic journey and its unique appeal.
Osteria Gallery hopes to promote namely artists based in Kenya, train them to journey in their creativity, develop their artistic eye, and instil the mentality that one does not have to just paint for money. On the contrary, to be a true artist, money should never be the motivation of creating as it will ultimately hinder the growth of the artist.
The Gallery has also started Kenya’s first practice of issuing Certificates of Authenticity from the artists, ensuring the authenticity of each art piece and to discourage the trade pirated versions.
Osteria Art Gallery was first launched in December 2011, and hopes to host its first art auction in a few months. Bezalel Ngabo’s “The Hidden Man” exhibition runs from May 31st – June 14th at the Osteria Art Gallery, which will explore the true ability and power of a man who is hidden in his spirit. The guest of honour during the official opening, June 2nd, will be Kenyan industrialist and art collector Chris Kirubi.