Friday, June 14, 2024
ArtMakush Art Gallery: Thriving Against All Odds, a Cultural Oasis Emerges

Makush Art Gallery: Thriving Against All Odds, a Cultural Oasis Emerges

Tesfaye Hiwot’s legacy shines on as Makush continues to flourish

Artworks and art galleries hold a profound significance in documenting and visually embodying the culture, history, identity, and aspirations of communities. Experts in the sector often consider them as the lifeblood of a country’s civilization. While Ethiopians regarded the establishment of art galleries as a luxury over two decades ago, the landscape has undergone a transformative shift since 2001 with the founding of Makush Art Gallery by the late Tesfaye Hiwot, an ardent art enthusiast.

Tesfaye, who had resided in the United States for 35 years, returned to Ethiopia and was struck by the lack of art galleries in the capital city. Drawing from his previous experience of owning a nightclub and an African art gallery in Washington, Tesfaye was inspired to replicate those successes in his hometown of Addis Ababa.

Initially conceived as an Italian restaurant and an art gallery showcasing Ethiopian artistic works, Makush faced an unforeseen challenge due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The restaurant, unfortunately, had to close its doors, leaving the gallery to independently carry on its mission.

Despite the loss of its visionary founder two years ago, the Art Gallery has continued to thrive, serving as a testament to Tesfaye’s enduring legacy.

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Makush Art Gallery: Thriving Against All Odds, a Cultural Oasis Emerges | The Reporter | #1 Latest Ethiopian News Today

Located on the first floor of Mega Building, along the bustling Bole Road, Makush has flourished within the art industry, solidifying its position as one of the city’s leading galleries.

As visitors ascend the first and second stairways, the gallery’s enchantment begins to reveal itself, leading to the main exhibition floor adorned with diverse artistic works that aim to evoke deep emotions. The stairways themselves serve as a visual honor guard, adorned with colorful paintings that captivate the eyes.

Makush boasts an extensive collection of over 2,500 paintings, each wall enveloped in vibrant Ethiopian artworks. These breathtaking creations depict a wide range of scenes, from monks praying at dawn to bustling markets and captivating portraits of women.

Beyond paintings, Makush offers visitors a glimpse into Ethiopian life from centuries past through traditional handmade chairs, tables, household items, artifacts, and religious crosses. These elements, carefully curated within the gallery, create a nostalgic ambiance reminiscent of Ethiopian life from centuries past.

The gallery attracts a diverse audience of both Ethiopian and foreign art enthusiasts who come to appreciate and acquire paintings that resonate with their personal interests.

Nathnael Yohannes, the current owner and manager of the gallery, has been associated with Makush for over 20 years. Reflecting on the gallery’s evolution, Nathnael highlighted that, when his uncle Tesfaye founded the gallery, they collaborated with just 15 artists. Today, the gallery proudly welcomes new young artists annually and currently works closely with 125 painters.

Nathnael emphasized that the gallery has earned a well-deserved reputation for promoting emerging painters in the industry. A significant factor behind their successful collaboration with such a large number of artists lies in the equal sharing of benefits. Painters are empowered to determine the prices for their artistic works while the gallery evaluates them and offers its purchasing price, according to him.

“Our gallery is renowned for its exceptional approach to promoting the work of young artists. In terms of profitability, both the artists and the gallery enjoy mutual benefits. We share the net profit from each item’s sale value equally, once income tax has been paid. This process ensures a win-win situation for both parties,” he said.

The gallery has established itself as a thriving hub, catering to a diverse clientele that includes local residents, international tourists, and diplomats. Foreign visitors comprise over 70 percent of the gallery’s patrons, with middle-aged individuals being frequent visitors.

Makush Art Gallery: Thriving Against All Odds, a Cultural Oasis Emerges | The Reporter | #1 Latest Ethiopian News Today

Nathnael emphasized the significant economic contribution the gallery has made to the country. Over the past 10 to 15 years, he says the gallery’s credit card transactions alone have injected over USD two million into the Ethiopian economy. Makush also organizes local exhibitions and has participated in prestigious art fairs overseas for the past 23 years.

Makush generates nearly two million birr each month by selling an average of 90 paintings, or about three per day. Nathnael estimates that the gallery earns close to USD 200,000 monthly from sales to its international customers. The revenue is expected to increase with upcoming exhibitions and fairs, including the one scheduled in Washington, DC in three months.

Despite its success, Nathnael expresses concern about the limited recognition of the art sector’s benefits in Ethiopia, despite its growing trend and growing participation. He believes there is a need for more art galleries throughout the country, as they are mostly concentrated in the capital city.

While Makush gallery is a member of the Ethiopian Tour Association, Nathnael criticizes the authorities for their failure to effectively promote the industry and elevate it to a higher level. He acknowledges the support received from Dashen Bank, art publishers, and fellow gallery owners in enhancing their reputation and raising awareness about the sector.

To address the lack of awareness, the gallery actively invites schools to foster a deep appreciation for art among young people. Nathnael believes that the younger generation plays a crucial role in propelling the sector to greater heights.

He says: “A visit to Makush Art Gallery offers a unique opportunity to immerse oneself in the essence of Ethiopia, all in one location.”

Wondewosen Kebede, the owner of Infinity (Elefe-Habet) Gallery and the current overseer of the Metropolitan Gallery of Ethiopia, shares similar concerns.

He believes that both the authorities and society have neglected the art sector, failing to provide necessary support and promotion for its advancement. Wondewosen emphasizes the importance of recognizing artworks and art galleries as essential parts of life, yet there is a lack of awareness among the people.

He attributes the lack of promotion and awareness to the absence of a well-defined policy structure in the country. He points out that Ethiopia lacks a specific policy supporting and promoting the art sector, resulting in bureaucratic hurdles for individuals attempting to establish art galleries.

According to him, “In Ethiopia, opening an art gallery is considered a luxury, and our policymakers have not created an effective law that promotes the sector and raises awareness,” he said.

Furthermore, Wondewosen highlights the better understanding of visual culture in western countries due to their implementation of policies specifically addressing the art sector. He also notes that Ethiopia only has two art school academies and not more than a dozen art galleries in the entire country, with the majority of them located in the capital city.


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