Makush Art Gallery and Restaurant Owner Makush Art Gallery and Restaurant says they have been successful since day one of opening its doors in Addis Ababa. The establishment has continued to take on new young artists every year. Now celebrating its 15th anniversary, Capital’s Eskedar Kifle spoke with Tesfaye and Teferi Teshome, an artist at the gallery about their journey.
Capital: Tell us briefly how you got into this business.
Tesfaye: I’ve been working in food and art for the last 25 years. When I was in the US, I was the owner of a restaurant, an art gallery and a club all located in the same building. In the gallery I displayed African and African American art. Three months after the Derg’s fall, I came back to Ethiopia. While working in the US, I was only showing and promoting arts from other countries and not Ethiopia, and so one of the main reasons for coming back to Ethiopia was to see what I could do.
During the Derg days, artists could not really express anything they wanted. So I came here and I found a person who would be able to take me to their studios and I went and saw that even though it was a very controlled time for the art sector then, these artists had stacks of paintings in their house, beautiful art.
The artists did not have a space where they could show their work. If I didn’t think their work was really good, I wouldn’t have moved here and started this business. It is very difficult to uproot from a different country and move here without believing it was worth it.
Everything that I saw was more than I ever imaged. The artists were very young, fresh graduates of art schools or some that were still in school. I was decisive and in eight months I opened Makush. It is not just an art gallery, but also a good restaurant with an Italian Chef. I started with 25 artists, after the opening, it was immediately successful.
Our Ethiopian customers then, they weren’t even 10 percent, 90 percent of the art was bought by embassies and foreigners. Once the gallery gained popularity and many artists heard about it, they started coming to us, all of them wanted to have a gallery. I couldn’t accept all, I had to be selective. Currently, I have over a 100 artists that I work with and there are around 700 paintings at this gallery.
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