ADA, Accra

In the midst of the Covid19 pandemic, Adora Mba has opened a gallery in Accra, Ghana. It is also a time of great international interest in contemporary African art, and many young talents are achieving rapid success. What they need is a platform to show their work.

ADA, Accra

How did you make the decision to open the gallery?

The objective to open a gallery has been a longstanding one for me – which makes the inauguration of ADA a sincere achievement. I felt that more galleries and general arts infrastructure was needed on the continent, in particular in Ghana where the talent is there, but unable to present its work. The question was always “when” rather than “if” I was going to launch a gallery space. And I must say that a strenuous combination of blood, sweat and tears – and of being at the right place, at the right time – made this undertaking possible.

Were you worried about the current situation?

Yes and no. I am not worried about the art market, which seems to be thriving as ever. I am however concerned about loved ones abroad. Ghana seems to have handled the pandemic rather well, with fewer cases than in many neighboring countries. Ultimately, I do hope that the situation will stabilize globally, that travel will return to normal, as another aim of ADA is to encourage collectors and art market professionals to both discover the space and visit Ghana. Additionally, we hope to be able to show at international art fairs, which is complicated with travel restrictions at this stage. I am eager to participate in many of the leading international art fairs. Galleries from the continent (with the exception of South Africa) are more or less absent from these fairs, and I intend to leave my mark – perhaps when Art Basel returns!

Adora Mba, Founder of ADA \ contemporary art gallery, photographed by Daniel Cole Ofoe Amegavie
ADA \ contemporary art gallery, Photograph by Nii Odzenma

How do you select your artists?

To be fully transparent, social media platforms have been instrumental in leading artists to “find” me or in me finding them. It was fascinating having the opportunity to meet artists from across the world through Instagram, a platform which they often use as a digital portfolio of their work. I was also referred to artists through word- of-mouth – by artists themselves as well as clients.

Tell us about Nigerian artist Collins Obijiaku.

Collins Obijiaku and I share a special bond: we met through Instagram, and I was immediately drawn not only to his work, but also to his story. The decision to join forces on this first gallery space, with this first artist which I chose to represent and on this first solo show for him, holds a rather symbolic value.

What is the price range for the works you are showing?

As Collins is an emerging artist, prices are competitive, ranging from $6,000 to $14,000 depending on the medium (paper or canvas) and size.

ADA \ contemporary art gallery, photograph by Daniel Cole Ofoe Amegavie

Tell us about your residency project.

The residency will take place for one month over the summer, in August, and end with a group show in early September in time for the post-summer return of the international art market. I have not yet finalized the application process yet, but it will most likely be a combination of invitation and call for proposals. I have my eyes on a couple of artists whom I would like to invite – but again, nothing is set in stone.

How are you going to use the web for your gallery business?

For now, our website will be used as a tool to complement the physical experience of the exhibitions in the space, with a multifaceted immersion into each artist’s practice through virtual viewing rooms, personal sketches and videos. I am open to exploring digital platforms like Artsy and other art brands and online galleries in the future. I have no objection, if the project and overall collaboration is fitting both my vision and that of my artists.

Collins Obijiaku at the gallery working at Papa and Joshua (2020), acrylic, oil and charcoal on canvas, 200cm x 180cm, photograph by Nii Odzenma

In which markets are you most active?

I do not hold a specific “reference” market. The artists with whom I work have interested collectors from across the world. Most interest seems to come from the United States, United Kingdom, Europe (in particular, France, Italy and Germany), but interest has extended to the Asian Pacific territories and the United Arab Emirates. While the international collectors seem to be present, I am working to developing the market in Ghana, and in West Africa more broadly, in order for these territories to grow into their own “reference” market.

What are your expectations for the art market in Ghana?

It is growing, though rather steadily. The talent is there, the interest is building up, and I envision the Ghana art market growing exponentially in the next five years – more museums, more art schools, more residencies, more galleries and more art fairs.

What about collecting? How has it developed in recent years?

Collecting is somewhat new to Ghana – but with the international influence and the right infrastructure, the practice has become an increasingly prominent one. In particular, a solid young collector base is forming.

The opening of ADA \ contemporary art gallery in Accra, photograph by Nii Odzenma
The opening of ADA \ contemporary art gallery in Accra, photograph by Nii Odzenma

How do you think the COVID-19 pandemic has influenced the desire to buy artworks?

From what I can observe, the desire to buy art appears to be even stronger now. Perhaps the inability to travel has played a role in this, or perhaps the beauty and transformational nature of art was increasingly clear during this time of questioning, confusion and sorrow. What I can say with certainty is that this period is a crucial crossroad for the international art industry, one where Africa finds itself at the center of all attention. It truly feels that this is Africa’s much-anticipated moment, and one that I am working to make last.

ADA \ contemporary art gallery, photograph by Daniel Cole Ofoe Amegavie

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