Lagos collector plans private museum to house 1,500 works

Sammy Olagbaju, a retired Nigerian stockbroker, plans to build a private museum in Lagos to house his 1,500-strong collection of Modern and contemporary art. The exact location has yet to be finalised; although the Pan-Atlantic University in Lagos and the Obafemi Awolowo University in Ile-Ife, south-west Nigeria, have both offered their campuses as potential sites.

Olagbaju’s foundation is footing some of the $3m to $4m cost of the build, but the former broker is hoping to attract funding from sources including other art foundations and the investment bank UBS.
The proposed four-storey museum will establish a base for Olagbaju’s collection, which he started in 1967 when he bought a work by Omotayo Aiyegbusi, known as the Picasso of Nigeria. Olagbaju initially focused on Nigerian art, but his international collection now includes works by
more than 400 artists from Africa and beyond.

The museum will also show works from other collections, including traditional Nigerian art. “The idea is to make Nigerian art more accessible to the viewing and buying public,” Olagbaju says. He also plans to sell limited edition prints through the museum. “Original works of art are expensive. The foundation hopes to popularise Nigerian art through the sale of prints.”

Olagbaju declined to reveal how much his collection is worth. “Earlier in my life, I made a point of not remembering the prices at which I bought my works,” he says.

One of his recent purchases is Le Pardon (2010) by the Congolese artist J.P. Mika, which he bought for £2,250 at Bonhams, London in 2013.