By Toyin Akinosho
Jess Castelotte, perhaps the most respected fine art critic resident in Nigeria, has a double win in the month of October 2019.
He has just added, to his name, a new title.
And in another week, he’d be among the hosts welcoming a number of distinguished guests to a brand new Museum of Art.
Castellote received a doctorate degree in Art History from a University in Madrid, Spain, in the first week of October 2019. His thesis was The Nigerian art system. Structure and agency in an emerging art world.
And the Yemisi Shyllon Museum of Art at the Pan Atlantic University, is as much a product of Castellote’s hard work as it is a realisation of the dream of Yemisi Shyllon, the Nigerian engineer and lawyer who has funded the entire construction and the University, which will run and manage it.
Castellote, a personable character who comes across as an ascetic, has, over more than the last 20 years, ingratiated himself into the mainstream of Nigerian art scene as a commentator, organiser, book author, and a ‘positive complainant’, if there is ever such a thing.
His A View from My Corner, a hugely popular, though infrequently updated, blog on contemporary art in Nigeria, is the closest thing to a proper, consistent critical publication on visual art in the country. He has written two books, Contemporary Nigerian Art in Lagos Private Collections: New Trees in an Old Forest and Oshinowo, and has published several papers focused on developing the Nigerian art scene.
Mr. sorry, Dr. Castellote has acted as an independent art advisor to several private and corporate bodies. He is presently the director of the Virtual Museum of Modern Nigerian Art, an online educational resource he initiated at Pan-Atlantic University, Lagos
Castellote has always campaigned that Public Institutions should be the dominant holders of visual art pieces. Even though the book, Contemporary Nigerian Art in Lagos Private Collections, perhaps his first major intellectual work, focuses on private collection, any reader of the book could hear him stridently saying that the Private collector is too much of an influential player in the Nigerian art ecosystem.
Of the Shyllon Museum, he told Omenka Online: “Sustainability is a very important issue for all cultural institutions. In this respect, the YSMA starts with a clear advantage over private museums: this is a project not just of one person alone, but of an institution (the university), aiming at achieving long-term objectives and having continuity independent of the person promoting it at present”.