7 Highlights at the Yemisi Shyllon Museum

Step inside Nigeria's first and largest museum of contemporary art.

Yemisi Shyllon Museum of Art, Pan-Atlantic University

The Yemisi Shyllon Museum of Art (YSMA) (2020)Yemisi Shyllon Museum of Art, Pan-Atlantic University

Welcome to the Yemisi Shyllon Museum of Art, Pan-Atlantic University

The Yemisi Shyllon Museum of Art (YSMA), of the Pan-Atlantic University, Lagos, is the first purpose built, privately owned art museum in Nigeria. The 900 sqm museum hosts over 1000 artworks from Prince Yemisi Shyllon’s vast art collection. Thanks to him, the YSMA is privileged to have one of the most comprehensive and diverse art collections in the country and to make it accessible to all visitors.

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Introducing the YSMA collection
Our collection features artworks from established Nigerian artists including Ben Enwonwu, Uche Okeke, Aina Onabolu, El Anatsui, Erhabor Emokpae, Yusuf Grillo, Lamidi Fakeye, Bruce Onabrakpeya, Ben Osawe, Isiaka Osunde, Okpu Eze, Abayomi Barber, Gani Odutokun, Kolade Oshinowo, etc. Alongside them, are works by younger artists: Kainebi Osahenye, Ben Osaghae, Peju Layiwola, Tony Nsofor, Peju Alatise, Victor Ehikhamenor, Lanre Tejuoso, Eva Obodo, Ozioma Onuzulike, Uchay Chima, Ayobola Kekere-Ekun, Kelani Abass and many others. Here are seven highlights from the collection.

Ibiebe Alphabets and Idiograms (1982) by Bruce OnobrakpeyaOriginal Source: Yemisi Shyllon Museum of Art

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#1: Ibebe Alphabets and Idiograms, Bruce Onobrakpeya, 1982

Printmaker, painter and sculptor Bruce Onobrakpeya is one of Nigeria's most influential artists. He invented a new writing style to reflect his Urhobo heritage. He refined this abstract writing style for about 8 years, from 1978 to 1986. The ideograms, numbered over 100, are put together in a 48-page publication, encapsulating explanations of the veteran artist’s cryptic signs and coded abstract patterns.

The Conflict (After Achebe) (1965) by Uche OkekeYemisi Shyllon Museum of Art, Pan-Atlantic University

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#2: Conflict, Uche Okeke, 1965

Uche Okeke was a leading figure in the history of modern African Art. He is a founding member of the famous Zaria Art society. Okeke died in 2016 at the age of 82.

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This illustration depicts a scene from Nigerian author Chinua Achebe's iconic book "Things Fall Apart." The abstract painting depicts Ajofia, leader of the council of Masquerade judges (Egwugwu) confronting the European missionary, Mr. Smith, in front of their local church about the unmasking of a masquerade by one of his zealots.

The Return of the Lean Dogs (2000) by Ben OsaghaeOriginal Source: Yemisi Shyllon Museum of Art

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#3: The Return of the Lean Dogs, Ben Osaghae, 2000

Ben Osaghae (1962-2017) was famous for his stylish approach to contemporary society through his abstract expressionism. 'The Return of the Lean Dogs' captures a group of young men, presumably vigilante or gang members, fraternizing over cigarettes and palm wine, probably after a long and stressful day.

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Born in Benin City, Nigeria, Ben Osaghae graduated from The Federal Polytechnic, Auchi in 1986. He worked as senior instructor in Painting, Life Drawing and History of Art at Auchi Polytechnic. His work was exhibited in Lagos, Accra, Douala and Paris.

Drummers' Return (1983/1999) by Yusuf GrilloYemisi Shyllon Museum of Art, Pan-Atlantic University

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#4: Drummers Return, Yusuf Grillo, 1983-99

Yusuf Grillo is considered one of Nigeria's most outstanding and academically trained painters. He studied at Cambridge University in England, and later in Germany and the US. He emerged to international recognition in the 1960s and 1970s.

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Yusuf Grillo's artworks combine western art techniques with traditional Yoruba sculpture, which in particular can be seen in his use of blue similar to that of adire.

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In this painting, the artist has captured traditional Yoruba drummers, thought to be returning from performing at an event. The three figures appear to be carrying objects which look like drums. The spray of rich blue and green hues are evident on the figures and background of the piece.

Nomads (1993) by Kolade OshinowoOriginal Source: Yemisi Shyllon Museum of Art

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#5: Nomads, Kolade Oshinowo, 1993

This painting depicts a common practice of the Fulani tribe of Northern Nigeria, often associated with migration and livestock farming.Kolade Oshinowo was born in Ibadan in 1948 and studied painting at Ahmadu Bello University Zaria. He has lectured for many years at Yaba College's School of Art, Design and Printing and has gained recognition for his interpretations of traditional Nigerian textiles.

Iya Abikun (FESTAC 77) (1977) by Erhabor EmokpaeOriginal Source: Yemisi Shyllon Museum of Art

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#6: Iya Abikun, Erhabor Emokpae, 1977

Erhabor Emokpae (1934-1984) was born in benin City and is regarded as one of the pioneers of modern art in Nigeria. He studied at Yaba trade centre and worked as Creative Director of Lintas in 1973. He has exhibited in Nigeria, West Germany, London, Brazil and Canada. He gained international recognition through his commissioned artworks for FESTAC 77.

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The sculpture's title 'Abikun', also spelt "Abiku" in Yoruba, simply means "Predestined to die". In Yoruba mythology, it refers to a child who dies before puberty, normally before or around the age of 12. Iya Abikun is the mother of such a child. The expression of frailty, sadness and pain is written all over the face of the mother who is a victim of this spiritual misfortune. The heart is full of anxiety about the future of her child as every minute of his/her existence is unpredictable.

Ijo (Africa Dances) (1957) by Ben EnwonwuOriginal Source: Yemisi Shyllon Museum of Art

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#7: Ijo (Africa dances), Ben Enwonwu, 1957

The stellar achievements of Ben Enwonwu (14 July 1917 – 5 February 1994) paved the way for the global recognition of modern African art, making him one of Africa's most influential 20th century artists.Here he depicts a masquerade, possibly the Odogo performing a ritual dance. In many Nigerian traditions, the masquerade is believed to be a symbol of religion and social justice.

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