A Royal Heritage

In the Yoruba language of Western Nigeria the title of ‘Omo-Oba’ translates as ‘Prince’. Ayomane Oladele Odimayo is the first child and son of the late Oba John Feyisara Odimayo, Jagboju VIII, Olofun of Ode-Irele. With the title ‘Oba’ his father was the traditional King-Ruler of the Ode-Irele kingdom situated in Ondo State in the Ikale region of Nigeria with a lineage spanning four hundred years. Hailing from a royal family of traditional rulers the culture of his people impressed itself on him from the earliest of years and from which germinated his passion for Nigerian traditional art.

An Astute Entrepreneur

As is typical of many reputed art collectors there also underlies a financial context which facilitates the inception of a major collection not unlike those of the Tate Family, Couthauld Family, Guggenheim Family and Getty Family. As such the birth of the Omo-Oba Oladele Odimayo Art Foundation Collection can be traced to the founder’s venture into private business in the early 1970’s with the establishment of the Oceanic Group of Companies, whose activities ranged from marine, construction and civil engineering and through its subsidiaries in sectors, such as aviation, real estate, healthcare and agro-allied manufacturing. As a founder director of Ecobank Transnational Incorporated, a leading pan-African bank, he was appointed Chairman of Ecobank Nigeria Plc. from March 2002 until September 2006. Since retirement from private business he dedicates his time in expanding his art collection and pursuing the objectives of the art foundation he established.

A Passionate Collector

As an astute and successful entrepreneur Omo-Oba Oladele Odimayo apportioned a considerable part of his wealth to build this art collection, a policy he has continued to uphold till the present day.
It was in 1978 when he began collecting European art, particularly Old Master paintings, and antique furniture for his homes in England, which included an 18-acre estate with horse stables in Leatherhead, Surrey, and a Mount Street, Mayfair, London home adjacent the famed Scott’s restaurant. From the 1980’s the intensity of his European art and antique furniture collecting escalated after establishing a strong relationship with numerous renowned London art and antique dealers and auctions houses, including Sotheby’s and Christies. The most valuable of his European art and furniture collection adorned the expansive rooms of his countryside mansion, ‘The Salutation’, Knight Rider Street, in the sleepy Sandwich hamlet of, Kent. The Grade I listed Edwardian mansion was built in 1911 for the gentleman brothers, William, Gaspard and Henry Farrer by the renowned English architect Sir Edwin Lutyens and its gardens designed by the famed Getrude Jekyll. During the 1980’s his collecting also forayed into vintage car collection and comprised some of the finest marques from Rolls Royce, Bentley, Daimler, Aston Martin and Mercedes Benz.

The Salutation

In 1988 he would become acquainted with Professor Ben Enwonwu (MBE), widely regarded as one of Africa’s greatest and most prolific artists of the twentieth century. Their relationship developed into a strong friendship and on his visits to England, Ben Enwonwu spent weekends at the Odimayo family’s country mansion, ‘The Salutation’ in Kent. Over this period Omo-Oba Olade Odimayo began acquiring a number of the artist’s masterpieces, such as ‘Africanity’, ‘Snake Dance’, ‘Black and Proud’, ‘Africa Dances’. The first three aforementioned works featured in ‘A Celebration of Excellence, Ben Enwonwu (1912 – 1994), A Retrospective Exhibition of an International Artist’, 12th – 30th July 2004, which was formally opened in London by HRH Princess Alexandra and hosted by the Commonwealth Club of the Royal Commonwealth Society.In the 1990’s, with his expanding interest in contemporary African art, Omo-Oba Oladele Odimayo further broadened his appreciation of the region’s artistic heritage with the steady acquisition of traditional Nigerian art. Over this period he amassed a considerable number of valuable Nok terracottas, Ife and Benin ivory and metal art works. He acquired more works of art during this period than in any other period of collecting and which has given rise to what is today widely regarded as the largest collection of fine traditional Nigerian art in private hands.

In the 1990’s, with his expanding interest in contemporary African art, Omo-Oba Oladele Odimayo further broadened his appreciation of the region’s artistic heritage with the steady acquisition of traditional Nigerian art. Over this period he amassed a considerable number of valuable Nok terracottas, Ife and Benin ivory and metal art works. He acquired more works of art during this period than in any other period of collecting and which has given rise to what is today widely regarded as the largest collection of fine traditional Nigerian art in private hands.