Wednesday, July 17, 2024
ArtGolla Art Gallery: A beacon of artistic brilliance in Addis

Golla Art Gallery: A beacon of artistic brilliance in Addis

Golla Art Gallery: A beacon of artistic brilliance in Addis | The Reporter | #1 Latest Ethiopian News Today Golla Art Gallery: A beacon of artistic brilliance in Addis | The Reporter | #1 Latest Ethiopian News Today

Established as a vibrant hub for artists and artisans, Golla Art Gallery serves as a center for artistic expression and creativity. Situated in the heart of Addis Ababa, the Gallery offers a stage for both solo and group exhibitions, becoming a sanctuary for emerging artists and a cornerstone of the city’s bustling artistic scene.

Originally christened St. George Art Gallery, Golla Art Gallery has been a staple in Addis Ababa’s art landscape since 1991. Set in the historic Golla Michael market area, the Gallery occupies a heritage house with Armenian roots, erected in the early 19th century by Mussie Kachick during Menelik II’s reign.

The 107-year-old heritage house, made of wood and brick, boasts over 10 rooms with wooden doors, windows, and floors, stretching across 372 square meters. As visitors’ step into the gallery’s compound, they are welcomed by a serene, green recreational area, setting the tone for the enchanting artistic journey within.

Inside, the gallery’s grand wooden door opens to reveal an extensive collection of antiques, including abstract sculptural furniture like Jimma chairs. These pieces, with their rich patina and dense wood, seamlessly blend contemporary appeal with timeless craftsmanship.

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The gallery’s treasures include displays of handmade woven textiles such as Gabi and Netela scarves, cotton blankets, table runners, cushion covers, and wall hangings. These textiles, adorned with “Tibeb” patterns — vibrant decorative borders typical of traditional Ethiopian garments — are crafted by skilled home-based weavers.

The Gallery also showcases unique, exquisite Ethiopian jewellery, featuring authentic designs and curated home decor accessories. Incorporating Ethiopian antique silver, semi-precious gems, and African beads, these pieces are both contemporary and heirloom-quality.

The pottery collection shines brightly, with jewelry displayed on chic, modern vases crafted by women potters. Primitive-looking facemasks made from pottery and wood add to the gallery’s distinctive charm, offering another layer of artistic exploration.

The gallery’s walls are a canvas for diverse paintings by both emerging and established artists. From abstract and charcoal works on canvas to vivid depictions of the Adwa victory heroes’ return, these artworks captivate visitors, leaving a lasting impression.

Navigating through each room, one discovers a diverse array of authentic paintings, ranging from small to large, that beautifully illustrate both traditional and contemporary Ethiopian lifestyles. The artworks vividly portray the daily routines of past generations, showcasing communal activities, while also capturing the essence of modern urban life in today’s Ethiopia.

Founded in 2018 by Selamawit Alene, Golla Art Gallery is the sister company of St. George Art Gallery, established by award-winning furniture designer Saba Alene. Saba is renowned for her hand-carved designs that incorporate Ethiopian symbols and themes, as well as hand-painted scenes from traditional stories.

Selamawit, now co-owner of the Gallery, is an interior, jewellery, and floral designer. She joined the gallery business eight years after the founding of St. George Art Gallery, contributing her design expertise to her sister’s venture. Her dedication and vision eventually led to the transformation of a historic house into Golla Art Gallery.

Opening the gallery had dual purposes: renovating the heritage house and expanding the art center. At its inauguration, the gallery featured works by the renowned painter Zerihune Yetemgeta, showcasing his art collections spanning over five decades.

Golla attracts over 1,000 visitors each month, primarily from the younger generation, and features the work of more than 20 talented artists. Beyond functioning as a gallery, it also serves as a shop and workshop, offering handcrafted items such as jewellery, textiles, baskets, and leather goods.

Selamawit revealed plans to establish artist residencies within the gallery, allowing artists to live and work on-site and hold exhibitions at the end of their residency period. The Gallery also aims to evolve into a renowned art center, complete with a restaurant or coffee shop.

“Our gallery collects contemporary modern art from both emerging and established local painters,” Selamawit said. “We welcome artists of all ages with the potential to deliver contemporary modern art that reflects current trends, cultural influences, and genuine talent.

However, she says what matters most is the quality of their work. “We particularly encourage young artists to contribute more because of their potential. In doing so, our gallery provides exposure for young artists, allowing them to display and sell their work on mutually agreed terms.”

According to Selamawit, the lifeblood of Golla Art Gallery flows from a triad of revenue streams: organizing captivating art exhibitions, selling unique items produced in vibrant workshops, and dealing in rare artifacts and stunning paintings. She explained that artists’ earnings are guided by a “consignment agreement” they enter into with the gallery. This agreement orchestrates a harmonious profit split, allowing artists to lose themselves in their creative process while the gallery takes on the roles of evaluator, marketer, and seller, earning a commission in the process.

While she coyly refrained from disclosing the precise number of paintings sold or the gallery’s monthly or annual earnings, Selamawit did reveal that the consignment agreement empowers them to collect, exhibit, and sell paintings. Artists receive payments based on their initially set prices, with the gallery taking a modest 35 percent service fee.

Selamawit passionately declared that exhibitions are a spectacular way to amplify income. With a flair for timing, her gallery orchestrates three to four exhibitions a year, meticulously selecting dates to maximize profits and appeal to both local and international art aficionados.

However, she lamented that the COVID-19 pandemic and current political instability have cast a shadow over the market, leading to a decline in international tourists. “We have hosted only one exhibition so far this year,” she told The Reporter.

When probed about the price range for a single painting, Selamawit illustrated a broad spectrum, from 16,000 to 400,000 birr. She emphasized that the price significantly hinges on the artist’s reputation. Intriguingly, she noted that young artists often demonstrate a keener sense for pricing their work compared to their more established counterparts.

Leykun Girma, a full-time studio artist, has been a loyal patron of Golla Art Gallery for 11 years. Currently, he runs his own studio, “Leykun Art,” but his journey began with “Atronus Studio,” which he shared with three other painters.

Reflecting on his relationship with the gallery, Leykun fondly recalls the robust connection he has nurtured over the years. Though he is aware of the consignment agreement, he doesn’t concern himself with the commission amount as long as he receives the price he has set for his paintings. “It is not up to me to decide that; however, I know how much my paintings are worth, and based on that, I set the price. The gallery paid my asking price,” he said.

Over the past decade, Leykun has sold a diverse array of his artwork through the gallery, with prices ranging from 10,000 to 200,000 birr. He added that the last painting he sold to the gallery fetched 70,000 birr.

To further diversify their income, the gallery hosts a variety of art competitions, infusing the scene with fresh talent and excitement. The latest competition, themed “Let Us Paint Addis Ababa” (Addis Ababan Ensalat), was a collaborative effort with the Addis Ababa Culture, Arts, and Tourism Bureau, aiming to capture and celebrate the city’s dynamic evolution through art.

With a visionary aspiration to ascend as a global nexus of artistic and creative innovations, Golla Art Gallery is committed to fostering diversity and inclusivity. Their mission: to enrich and transform the lives of individuals within the community and the nation. The gallery itself is a haven for art enthusiasts, featuring a tranquil green recreational area that provides a serene and distinctive venue for enjoying art in its myriad forms.

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