Sharon Obuobi is a multi-talented art business expert at the forefront of the African art market, and boasts an impressive social media presence. She most recently worked in the Modern & Contemporary African art, building industry growth at the esteemed Sotheby’s auction house. She has also worked at museums, galleries, institutions, and with artists from around the world. So when we heard about her new podcast show called IN STUDIO with Sharon Obuobi, we were happy to be all ears.
TM: Looking at your work over the years, and your contributions to the African arts, it is clear that you have a passion for the arts. How did you first get into it?
A: I was born into a very creative family particularly on my father’s side. He and his siblings were artists and musicians. I grew up listening to jazz, highlife, and classical music which were playing at all times, whether we were in the car or at home. My father also nurtured my talent for drawing hyper-realistic portraits, and I played both the alto saxophone and piano in school. But I didn’t ever think that art would be a viable career path for me until I started to write about artists. As a result of my curiosity, I began to make contacts and take up opportunities which opened further ones along the way.
T: Tell us more about that. What did you study in school, and what were some of the art organizations you worked with?
A: Funny enough, I studied business in university, because my father insisted, but I began to discover artists on the internet in my spare time. I began to write for my own blog called Auburn Butterfly which evolved into African & Afro-Diasporan Art Talks. For 3 – 4 years, we created engaging content on art by artists of Africa and the Diaspora. This was done in conjunction with art talks and online chats to interact with our community. While managing this, I worked in marketing roles at Creative Time, Studio Museum, PULSE Art Fair, and Art Twenty One Lagos to name a few.
T: You must see a lot of art, so this might be a tough question. But who are some of your favourite artists?
A: (laughs) Yes, it’s hard to name only one artist, as someone who is constantly exposed to art! One of the first artists I ever discovered and loved was Brazilian painter Beatriz Milhazes. When I first saw her work, I was excited that she was so highly regarded for her paintings, and she was one of the first contemporary women artists I learned about. I loved the vivid, colourful floral themes in her artwork; they reminded me of my happiest moments.
Since then, I’ve had the chance to know many artists who include: Lina Iris Viktor, Ibrahim Mahama, Peju Alatise, Victor Ehikhamenor, Nengi Omuku, Mickalene Thomas, Lynette Yiadom Boakye, Barkley Hendricks, El Anatsui, Toyin Ojih Odutola, Kehinde Wiley… I could go on, actually. These are just a few of the artists I love, and I’m lucky to be able to call some of them my friends.
T: Tell us about your podcast series IN STUDIO. Why did you start it and what do you want listeners to take from it?
A: At the heart of what I do is a passion for connecting people through authentic art experiences. Before I ever started working with museums, auction houses, and galleries, I just wanted to be able to speak with people about the art we encountered together. I love engaging conversation about doing this and art is an amazing way to connect with people.
With that in mind, IN STUDIO is a series about the stories of art makers, curators, and influencers who inspire thoughtful perspectives on the world around us. My aim is to highlight the human side of the arts, and allow listeners to connect with art makers through their stories.
T: Which episodes would you recommend as some of the best ones from IN STUDIO so far?
The series launched with a bang in an episode featuring Lina Iris Viktor (Episode 1) – I had such an amazing time chatting with her. Aside from the fact that Lina and her work are mesmerizing, she eloquently explained her research in history of American race relations and the influence of her Liberian heritage.
Other great episodes were those with Ibrahim Mahama (Episode 2) who talked about the concepts of materiality in his work, one with Adebayo Bolaji (Episode 9) who laughed and shared about his journey discovering acting and a love for painting. Many listeners will also know Victor Ehikhamenor (Episode 10) who recently exhibited in the Nigerian Pavilion at the 2017 Venice Biennale.
We’ve already launched Season Two which presents guests including Nengi Omuku, Serge Attukwei Clottey, Phoebe Boswell, Eddy Kamuanga Ilunga, Simon Njami, and Dennis Osadebe.
T: How can we find you online?
A: You’ll love my daily photos documenting my adventures visiting art exhibitions, artist studios, and museums on Instagram @RoseofSharonO. My twitter has the same handle.
If you’d like to follow the IN STUDIO series, you can follow us on Instagram and Twitter @InStudiowithSO for highlights from each week’s episode.