Art X Lagos: A step in the right direction for African Contemporary Art

Building on its successful 2016 debut, the 2017 edition of ART X Lagos opened last weekend to rave reviews, as His Highness, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, Emir of Kano, led a field of dignitaries, including the Honourable Minister for Information & Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed and the CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, in unveiling the 3-day art fair which ran from 3rd to 5th November at the Civic Centre, Victoria Island, Lagos.  ART X Lagos 2017 boldly reinforced Nigeria and Africa’s growing credentials on the global contemporary art scene.

Immediately following the VIP preview, guests, art aficionados and Lagos and international gentry fraternized at the VIP After Party, hosted by Voltaire, the exclusive members-only arts club.

Day 2 saw the official opening of the fair to the general public, as Smile, an outdoor installation by Olatunde Alara, commissioned by Absolut to tackle the theme ‘Artist as Citizen’, welcomed guests to the venue.  A colourful danfo, designed by Olalekan Jeyifous and curated by A Whitespace Creative Agency, was also stationed at the entrance to the exhibition hall, inviting guests to properly interact with the space and indulge their creative impulses.

On loan from Access Bank to the fair and welcoming guests to the exhibition hall, were the famous seven wooden sculptures by Nigeria’s greatest modern artist Ben Enwuonwu MBE.   The works were originally commission by the Daily Mirror in 1960 and had never, until now, been publicly displayed in Nigeria.  This unveiling coincides with the artist’s 100th natal anniversary.

The main exhibition floor was home to 14 exhibiting galleries including Art House – The Space (Nigeria), Bloom Art (Nigeria), Fondation Donwahi (Ivory Coast), Gallery 1957 (Ghana), Galerie Atiss (Senegal), Gallery MAM (Cameroon), Nubuke Foundation (Ghana), Retro Africa (Nigeria), Signature Beyond (Nigeria), SMO Contemporary (Nigeria), Stevenson Gallery (South Africa), TAFETA (United Kingdom), and Tiwani Contemporary (United Kingdom).

The 65 artists on show included the Nigerian-born, British-based, globally renowned artist and sculptor Yinka Shonibare MBE; Zanele Muholi (South Africa); Jeremiah Quarshie (Ghana); Modupeola Fadugba (Nigeria); Nandipha Mntambo (Swaziland); Virginia Chihota (Zimbabwe); Boris Nzebo (Cameroon); Babajide Olatunji (Nigeria); Pamela Phatsimo Sunstrum (Botswana); Amadou Sanogo (Mali) and Portia Zvavahera (Zimbabwe) amongst others.  In addition, four independent artists –  Polly Alakija, Rom Isichei, Lakin Ogunbanwo and Oluseye presented a selection of their works.

In addition to the exhibitions, the programme of events included a series of talks by eminent artists, including Lemi Ghariokwu, the mastermind who had a long term collaboration with Afrobeat legend, Fela Kuti, creating cover art for his  now iconic discography; Ed Keazor; Stacy Hardy from Chimurenga South Africa; and Olu Amoda.

The second day closed with a loud bang, as ART X Live! with Absolut roared into the early hours of Day 3. The 2017 edition tagged ‘Electric Africa: The Digital Orchestra’, saw a unique fusion of digital art by Williams Chechet & Osaze Amadasun with electric music. As expected, young art enthusiasts turned out in large numbers to watch Poe, Tomi Thomas, Wavy the Creator, Eko Samba and producers Aye and Leriq team up to deliver an unparalleled live music experience.

The highlight of Day 3 included talks by Njideka Akinyili-Crosby, a MacArthur Genius Fellow.  Speaking with moderator Temitayo Ogunbiyi, Njideka talked about her upbringing and how it shaped her career as an artist. Other speakers included Bimpe Nkontchou, Eric Fajemisin, Femi Akinsanya, Femi Lijadu, Ngoné Fall, Peju Alatise and Wura-Natasha Ogunji. The ART X Prize with Access Bank winner, Habeeb Andu, was also announced at the end of the talks.

Speaking at the closing, Tokini Peterside thanked all the sponsors, the advisory board and members of the public who have made ART X Lagos the success it has become:

“Following last year’s turnout of 5000 people, it is both exciting and humbling to learn that over 9,000 people have walked through our doors these past 3 days! We thank all our sponsors, exhibitors, artists and the general public for your support. Our 2017 edition has been a phenomenal success due to your participation and the passion that you have brought into the experience. We can now say with confidence that the future is incredibly bright, and that we are on course to deliver on our mission – to magnify the patronage of African artists across the continent, and to inspire the future generations of African artists. We assure you of our commitment to maintaining ART X Lagos as a leading light for African contemporary art, and look forward to sharing with you in the new year our plans for 2018.”

ART X Lagos 2017 enjoyed the support of gold sponsor, Access Bank; silver sponsor, Absolut; bronze sponsors, Stanbic IBTC Pensions Managers7Up, ANAP Jets; and of Diversity and Education Partner, Ford Foundation, as well as Chapel Hill Denham, Lufthansa, Leadway Assurance and Metro Capital.  The art fair also enjoyed the media partnership of Ebonylife TV, TRACE Naija, Africa Magic, Smooth FM 98.1, The Guardian & The Beat 99.9 FM.

You can keep in touch with ART X Lagos by following @artxlagos on Instagram and Twitter. You can also follow the conversation with #ARTXLagos.

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