Art or Business?


By Kayode Taiwo Olla

I made friends with a young man who appears to me to be quite my opposite, in terms of temperaments, moral beliefs and practice, and, in fact, beliefs about faith and religion. Had it been I hadn’t grown to quite understand never to draw subjective conclusions on any person whatsoever, I could have (if it was about 10 years ago) always only looked at him from afar—and with such judgmental relation that would have made us impossible to gain any other thing from our differing talents and experiences. I would have condemned him seven out of seven times, even though I’d never reach close to speak with him without a religious condescension that are Pharisee-like. It was 2014 I met him while we worked as colleagues on a youth service program, and we gradually grew to make kind of really helpful friends. He eventually began to draw closer to God, started dropping habits, too. I? I eventually got won over into proactive business-orientation, business skills and the business finance management.

As I discovered from a chain of trends with writers, literary bloggers, spoken word artistes, art photographers, art painters, arts critic, literary critics, script writers, and so forth: if you are to be frank you will agree, most of the art-ists care essentially for fame—even crave for; but only a few people also think like a businessman every once in a while. And that is why artists will never be the richest—except only those who thinks and take actions like the rich will do, or they make use of business consultants they pay to do that for them. Art is also consumable if packaged so. Working with a new friend of an altogether different, and non-romantic, non-arty, pragmatic discipline, plus him being the opposite of the melancholy temperament of a nerdy poet—sharing random work issues with A-Z, made me realize these things without him even saying so much.

A-Z, as I often call him, had first got a diploma in Computer Science, before he obtained a National Diploma in Business Administration, and then went on to bag a Higher National Diploma in Marketing. On top of everything, he is also the dreamer kind of person I find likeable; plus, he is a lot hardworking. Sometimes, he gets to challenge me when he talks about his dreams; and times too I’d set him on his toes from big stuff I aspire to do, too. Many times, we simply talk frankly and man-to-man. And all through this time, we were both ever hoping to be able to get good jobs, and stark reality of unemployment was downright dawning on us when we both drafted many application letters (he, about 30; I, less than 10) and submitted all without getting a response.

Then, he put me through the idea of registering one’s intended business with the Corporate Affairs Commission and the official processes and legal implications of it all. He was thinking as a kind of Business Administration expert. Not as a romantic poet will think, perhaps. He himself was saving quite some amount every month for 12 months, to be able to set up a computer training center that he intends to develop into a diploma-awarding computer institute. It worth saying that, he has not only set up in April 2015, but has just recently even enlarged his training center three to four times as large as in startup, in terms of space, students as well as equipment. I was immensely impressed with what I saw the last time I got pictures from him.

Is art business? Is it Art or Business? I will rather say: Art is art. But then, art is itself consumable. For instance, we talk about great works of timeless art being auctioned for millions of dollars; or about artists and art brands receiving multimillion contracts of interior and exterior art designs for

Ceramic making in Atamora Pottery Studio, Ibadan, Nigeria

Ceramic making in Atamora Pottery Studio, Ibadan, Nigeria

resort hotels, tourist zone hangouts and lodges, executive conference rooms and what-have-you? Art is also consumable and has the commercial side of art production that is termed functional art—with examples as textiles, ceramics, photography, graphic art, profile drawing, makeover (makeup) art, beadwork craft, handmade card designs, and so on. So, instead of asking, “Is it Art or Business?”—as though the two cannot corporate (and, so, collocate!)—then, why not ask rather: “Is it Art and Business?” So, once again, there has been a subconscious, indirect trend: Art-ists don’t think business. But you know what? They think fame instead—think, dream and fantasize about fame far more than the wealthy folk’s orientations do accommodate themselves. Their business counterparts are more pragmatic and intentional about opportunities available in their fields and, in fact, other fields along with theirs; while the art folks often naturally romanticize those same “acres of diamond” that looks beautifully from their windowpane!

In that light, once in a while, art can incorporate business in the long run—that is, a possibility of financial benefits (more properly called “profit”). The artist who paints for pleasure and art exhibition events can also produce works that are of marketable appeal for company brands along with that—rather than the style and tradition experimentations in new avant-garde art meant for art critics and journals. It doesn’t reduce the artists, in my opinion. The art photographer that does street photography, documentary photography, still-life photography, and so forth, can also create a division of his or her photography brand that does covers social event as contract (say, wedding photography), or modeling photography in art style. The

Ceramic bowl from a young pottery brand in Ikirun, Nigeria (Source:

Ceramic bowl from a young pottery brand in Ikirun, Nigeria (Source:

literary blogger that puts rich content on his blog for free consumption and/or participation of readers, can, of course, tailor content in such a way it is both immensely useful and highly frequent so much that enough traffic to your blog attracts prospective adverts clients. That way, you even still do more of your loved writing, anyway—and with more proactivity rather than a carefree, hobby-like venture.

Since close to a decade now, I usually tell people that writing is not a hobby for me; that, it has transcended that to be frank. I don’t just write to occupy free time—and which I, of course, also do. But it is more than that. Writing for me is a calling, a life calling; and something that is all of passion, deliberate purpose and lifetime vocation. When our art transcends just a hobby, we will take it same way as the Chairman of the Board of Directors of a multimillion dollar group of companies will keep awake until so late in the dead night working only to wake up before the first light of day to prepare for another day of purposeful work.

If someone had ever asked me why I need to keep up writing, blogging and doing things art and literary when I already have a paid work and a good source of income—perhaps, my reply would I’ve been along these lines, that: Even if I’m not going to ever get financial benefits from these things, I really still don’t see myself stopping things like this, cos it’s all I ever loved to do—it makes me so fulfilled reaching to matters of the hearts via the simple medium of the arts! But then, I’ve also learned something I never used to have in thought before. It’s about making the best of every opportunity in the right way and through hard work. Cos when you work hard enough and maximize opportunities, then you’re imbibing the secrets of hardworking, successful people and soon you’ll be sitting among them.

Art-ists can lead a very poor but productive life in of great works of the mind and celebrated posthumously; or may be having fame on works but be altogether broke—and that is when opportunities in their disposal aren’t properly used and rightly maximized. Secondly, I believe art-ists can make quick “success” and ruin come down crashing just as quick on integrity case, or may maintain seeming success for so long but would have lost touch with practice delight and fulfillment for a lifetime—when opportunities are taken as bait to exploit people and/or cheaply sell stuff in a crazed dash for gain. And art-ists, I know, can legitimately use creative opportunities in their fields to maximize the full potentials of their practice in every necessary aspects of success—and that also includes financial rest.

Kayode Taiwo Olla is an intense lover – of the arts, of a certain lady, and of Jesus. He is a lecturer as well as a graduate student by daytime and a reader as well as a writer by dusk. He wishes for ever he can just paint with brush like artists do!

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