By JAPHET ALAKAM

Patty Chidiac is the CEO/Curator of Alexis Gallery, a leading art gallery in Victoria Island Lagos Nigeria. She is also the owner of ‘The Studios’ and Art Cafe in Lagos. The Beniniose born curator and business woman who came to Nigeria in January 1975, has been managing the store for years before she opened the art gallery in 2013.
For only 3 years in the art business, Chidiac has changed the lives of many young artists and that has made the gallery the most sought after gallery in Nigeria. But one unique thing about Alexis gallery is its romance with young artists which has been cordial compared with other galleries. As the woman celebrates her 40 years success story in Nigeria, Sunday Art caught up with her where she explained the secret behind the success and other sundry issues in the art business.

Why art?
I am an art lover, I am a collector myself. I have always had an eye on Art, I grew up in Kano and given the chance, I think I would have been an artists because I am very creative and that is why I am in the art business.
And since the establishment of the gallery, its been very well, we have been maintaining a good stance , good level and standard of work with the artists and with people. We are in a very advanced stage at the moment of which where we hope to be in about 5­8 years, we are already there now.

Romance with young artists.
My philosophy is that the young artists need somebody to guide them and help them, I think the established artists are already there, they don’t need any help, my aim is to help young artists grow safely, correctly because there is so much potentials and beautiful art in them. My desire is to ensure that they do not go the wrong way and waste it since they have such potentials.

On the price of art works.
Yes, we know the difficulty of representing artists. But we want to sanitise the art market by truly representing the artists and get the right value for their works.

On the success story of Alexis gallery so far.
It has been very well, actually surprisingly well, for instance,the likes of Stanley Dudu sells out his works very well and is very sought after. The next one is Raji Babatunde who is having his first solo this year, who has done amazingly well and their response to us has been loyal too. At the moment, we manage about 7 to 8 artists of which we have one giant called Zinkpe from Cotonou and we’ve been doing very well hand in hand. You know, alone one arrives but together we will definitely get there.
Last year,we organised about 8 exhibitions and in all we have already done about 25, of which I must say that about 50% were sell out, we have a formula here that we also abide. Like I said earlier, we are trying to push the young artists up and we get big artists too to exhibit, which also spices up the whole year. The gallery is fully booked till 2017 for exhibition and these is due to the way we select the works, price the works, is also data based, the private viewing and the rapport with the customers which make a lot of customers trust us and collect works. The artists also have their own input through their quality of their works.
Up till last year, we were dealing with up to 135 artists which was a lot of work for us, we do not want to keep such number, we want the number we can manage well so we narrowed it down to half. We are now covering West African artists. We will be having a big show in March for Beninoise, Togolese, C’ote d Ivoire, Senegal, so we are getting about 8 artists to give Nigeria a fresh air of the new good works. They will be signed too so that we can be able to market them. Basically, its Nigeria and West African artists that we will be dealing.
You know that Charity begins at home, Nigeria is number one but there are many talents in West Africa that is hidden and not exposed, I want to expose them, you have to understand that I am a Beniniose , so its easy for me to click with the Francophone.

Relationship between other galleries and their artists.
I don’t know of other galleries and how they do their work, I only know of my own and how I do my own work. I respect the artists because they have a gift that I don’t have, it is God’s gift and that is why I respect them. They do come from different planets and their thinking is different. But we have an agreement and understanding and we both abide by it, so there is no going wrong, its a win win situation. You can’t go wrong when both parties are consenting and are happy.
On those who go only after established artists.
Even if you are working with the young artist, it does not mean that the artist can not sell his works because he is brilliant, but the fact remains that people go for the established artist. The should remember that they were once young artists and that one day the young artists will grow to become established. It is really wise to buy from young artist because art appreciates.

On projection in the next five years.
I am hoping that at the rate we are going, we will somehow go international. I am very happy with the way things are going, I don’t mind been in this level for the next five years, but I know that in the next five years, my young artists (my eggs) would have hatched and grow up and be wonderful. Basically, the fame is there and the glory is mine and that is what drives me to do this. In five years time, if I am still here, the young ones would have grown up and new ones will be brought in. But I am hoping to go international.

On Nigerian art.
The irony in Nigerian art is that you have so much fraud and so much potentials, its dual exchange, you have many artists, more than 100 artists come up every year. Nigeria is very rich, it is incredible how much talents we have and the talents are diversified. You look at the Francophone artists, they are into recycling and use of waste, but it is not the case in Nigeria. In Nigeria, w have creativity, it is incredible how much we have here, I look at Nigeria as one of the major art centres in the world.

Advice to young artist.
I believe that artists should not try to burn pages to get there. I think that they should take their tine to get where they want to be.
Take your time, you are young, with time you will get there, if you are destined to get their, with hard work you will definitely get there.