Nigerian art enthusiast, Yemisi Shyllon, has been named among the world’s top 100 art collectors in 2016, the first African to be so honoured.
The 63-year-old Yoruba prince owns about 7,000 pieces of artworks ranging from traditional and neo-traditional African art to contemporary painting and sculptures.
According to CNN, Shyllon’s is the largest art collection in Africa.
“When I started collecting art as an undergraduate at university in the mid-1970s, it had virtually no value,” Shyllon told newsmen.
“You could buy a piece of good art for 20,000 Naira. Today it would sell for millions.”
Shyllon’s private foundation, the “Omooba Yemisi Adedoyin Shyllon Art Foundation”, OYASAF, regularly sponsors international fellowships and workshops, as well as lends artworks to international museums.
“It is a glorious obsession,” the Nigerian said.
“I’ve studied the movement of the prices of artwork sold in auctions in Nigeria since 1999.
“And I can tell you how much the artworks have grown over time, of different artists – if we draw a correlation analysis we come up with a positive graph about the growth, and therefore it can form a solid basis for investment,” he added.
The prince is undoubtedly one of the major players in Africa’s current bull market and arguably Nigeria’s largest private art collector.
His collections comprise of artworks from other African countries like Togo, South Africa, Senegal, Ghana and Cameroon. He believes that by collecting art, he is safeguarding Nigerian cultural heritage.
Shyllon annually sponsors scholars, curators and art historians from outside Nigeria to visit and study his collection, interacts with Nigerian artists and other art collectors, and promotes research into Nigerian culture, including other art forms of interest to scholars.
His foundation has donated many life-size sculptural monuments to public places and institutions in Nigeria, notably among which are, the 18 life-size sculptural works of art to the Freedom Park, Lagos, and significant monuments to the Universities of Lagos and Ibadan.
What many do not know about Shyllon is that he is a man of many parts having distinguished himself in several areas of endeavours aside the arts.
Prince Shyllon is also a legal practitioner, chartered engineer, chartered marketer and a chartered stockbroker/investment analyst with business interests covering all his academic and professional disciplines.
“I don’t believe collections should just be about collecting and enjoying art. I think it should go beyond just collecting – it should go into the element of propagating the culture or the heritage of the people and way of life of the people.
“Not only that, it should finally go to the extent of creating a legacy,” Shyllon said of his enthusiasm for art works.