Tuesday, 1 April 2014

'Monument Men' and Etu Ndow

Last week a Gambian artist, Etu Ndow died. I discovered this because there were many many messages left on his Facie page from all over the world. He was just 48 and as best as I can discover, died from a heart attack. When Steve and I were in The Gambia, we were so taken with his paintings and Etu himself, that we bought his exhibition and exported it back to London. Etu was thrilled with the sale and we were happy with the price and the idea that he would continue his fine work. We thought we would sell some of the pieces but actually never got around to it and now most of them hang somewhere here in the big house. People from all over the world posted selfies in front of one of his paintings. I think he would be pleased.

So Etu's work has sort of collected an anonymous gaggle of folk who have only his work in common, and as fine as it is I rather doubt any of us would lay down ours lives to protect it.

'Monument Men', was well produced and acted and can boast an expensive cast of widely recognised actors. I suppose that is always gonna be the case when George Clooney writes and acts and directs a project. It was based on a true story of a small higgley-piggley group of blokes commissioned towards the end of WW2, to recover the artwork stolen by the Nazis. Some men died in this pursuit, and in the final wash up when asked if the works were worth the lives lost, the answer was 'yes'.

All the greats were mentioned and some pieces were specifically targeted. What I wonder is this, would the world be worse off without Leonardo's Madonna and Child sculpture, or would we be OK because we knew it had been made, and contempory pieces are still available to look at and admire. I guess the question is whether or not art pieces need to be immortal. I remember clearly, arguing the negative at Uni in an art class and being howled down.

I have not changed my mind. Etu's paintings are unlikely to survive for generations, but they bring pleasure now and an insight into Gambian life today. The fact the the materials have a definite shelf life does not detract from their value.

No I am not saying that Etu's artwork is in the same league as Picasso's or Renoir's but as I can own it and look at it and enjoy it, his paintings are of enormous value to me.

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