By Nii B. Andrews
There have been 20 million visitors (close to 70% from outside Spain) and it has been 20 years since the Frank Gehry designed museum was opened in Bilbao; officially called the Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao.
To its credit, the museum has always recognized “the need to appreciate African artists today for the dazzling variety, singularity and sheer power of their art”.
This commitment included the exhibition, “Making Africa- A Continent of Contemporary Design” held from October 2015 to Feb 2016 with 120 African artists participating.
Gehry has confessed that the phenomenal success of the entire Bilbao museum project has taken him by surprise.
Since 1997, there have been many attempts to replicate the model of a “transformational project”. The latest attempt being the Zeitz MOCAA in Cape Town.
The understanding is that a weighty cultural investment and breathtaking architecture will fuel economic progress for towns and cities.
These cultural projects are supposed to become facilitators of economic development and create a positive image or……that’s it, brand, for the city.
Does this really work?
Other cities that have tried to replicate the Bilbao model with mixed results are; Center Pompidou in Metz, The Public in West Bromwich and The Ordos Museum in China.
The Louvre in Abu Dhabi is scheduled to open next month.
In Bilbao, one of the advantages was the help from the Guggenheim Foundation whose extensive art holdings form the nucleus of the collection in the museum.
Does this mirror the plan for the Zeitz MOCAA where the nucleus of the exhibit comes from the holdings of Jochen Zeitz who has the museum named after him?
Now, what about West Africa and specifically Ghana?
What is being done? Are there any plans? Will they be transformational? When can we expect a “transformational project”?
The Bilbao museum has contributed more than €4bn to the national GDP and provided over 5000 jobs.
Nearer home, the Museum of Civilisations has just been extensively refurbished in Cote D’Ivoire.
Meanwhile in Accra, the waste collection depot for the municipality has been placed right next to the Artists Alliance Gallery (Ghana’s largest art gallery).
This speaks volumes.
The acrid fumes engulfing the gallery as a result of the burning of garbage almost daily, tells us a lot about the priorities and capabilities of our civic leaders and politicians.
Incessant complaints over the years have fallen on stone ears and hard hearts.
It pains me and many others too.
And in Tema, there is a huge unused concrete cocoa silo dating from the first republic.
Does this ring a bell? Should we hold our breath?
The other completely solid concrete structure that has been the fulcrum of the Greater Accra economy is now riddled with potholes, pock marked with bitumen, and sandwiched between trotro stations.
But we must not give in to melancholy and despair; nor ignorance and dishonesty.
The darkest period is just before dawn breaks and we must never tire of waiting.
Perhaps the Boneshakers must return.