Niyi Olagunju’s contemporary appropriation of traditional African sculptures continues his exploration of global trade and, in his words: ‘the absolute commoditisation of everything’. The sculptures, which are usually exhibited alongside preparatory sketches, are bisected vertically and have their internal surfaces primed and coated in metals mined from the region from which they are originally sourced. The project questions the value system driving the continuing growth in the sale of traditional African artifacts, which although originally made and used for specific long-standing traditional functions, are now ultimately valued according to their provenance and rarity. Olagunju’s use of precious and semiprecious metals lends consideration to the complex relationships that emerge from the exploitation of natural resources on the African continent, and its subsequent effects on communities and their cultural legacies.
A practicing studio artist having had exhibitions globally, his works reside in several private collections Africa, Europe & America. Recently Olagunju’s sculptures were shown as part of Get Up, Stand Up Now, Somerset House, London (2019); and KUBATANA, Vestfossen Kunstlabratorium, Oslo (2019). His work was been recently acquired at TEFAF Maastricht 2020 by the House of the European History in Brussel, Belgium.