Following two years being primarily in one’s domestic country (with minimal international travel), it’s great to get to attend art fairs in person again. And finally getting tickets to visit ART X Lagos this year, was a moment of pure joy. I’ll outline some of the sights and visits of my few days in LasGidi, as Lagos is often called.
ART X Lagos, started in 2016, was the first international art fair in West Africa. Tokini Peterside-Schwebig, a Nigerian businesswoman and art and culture activist, founded ART X Lagos. The art fair was launched to showcase and support the breadth of contemporary art from Africa and its diaspora.
ART X Lagos 7th edition highlights
The seventh edition ran from 4 to 6 November 2022. It comprised 120 artists from over 40 countries across Africa and its diaspora represented by 31 international galleries. Those who couldn’t be in Lagos for the fair could see the works exhibited on ARTSY until 10 November 2022.
Pre-ART X Lagos fair activities
I arrived on Tuesday, 1 November, to attend other meetings. Luckily, my meeting venue was in the building next to an exhibition where the vernissage had been held the prior week. SMO Contemporary Art presented Amazing Nigeria by Kelechi Amadi Obi. The photo exhibition, curated by Sandra Mbonefo Obiango, comprises some cityscapes and several landscape photographs of breathtaking vistas in Nigeria. The exhibition highlights the tourism potential related to sites like the Osun Osogbo Sacred Grove and the Gurara Falls. One attendee from Germany even remarked how pleasantly surprising the presentation was given that Nigeria isn’t, in their opinion, often linked with tourism.
The artist states, “Growing up, I had been inundated with a deluge of negative imagery representing Africa and would often find myself listening to loud complaints about the way our continent is being portrayed in Western media. According to Chimamanda Adichie, it is a great disservice to confine the definition of a people to just one story. So the question I often ask is, what happened to our own voice? No one is stopping us from showing the other reality that also exists.”
On Wednesday, 2 November, I attended another exhibition that opened the week before at kó entitled In Situ: Encounters in Place. The artworks reflect on the concept of place and origin, given the modern realities of migration and social media. The artists featured were Asemahle Ntlonti, Ayanfe Olarinde, Ayotunde Ojo, Sesse Elangwe, Stephen Price and Talut Kareem.
Friday, 4 November
The Private Collectors’ Preview was held during the day, where the more considered collectors could view the artworks. But it seems most Lagosians and those visiting the fair were waiting for the VIP Opening Reception. Like many art fairs, opening night is an opportunity to see the artworks and talk to artists, gallerists and curators. But it is also a great opportunity to check out the phenomenal fashion and creativity beyond just the walls and sculptures on display!
A highlight that several ART X Lagos VIP guests (like the sponsors Access Bank and the Governor of Lagos) ensured they did not miss was Ulin-Nóifo, A Lineage that Never Ends, Victor Ehikhamenor‘s mixed media installation. And neither did we! Ehikhamenor is a a Nigerian-American multidisciplinary visual artist and writer. The magnificent exhibit featured imposing tapestries of rosary beads, bronze pieces and kernels accompanied by a moving sound installation.
You had to also visit the Nike Art Gallery stand to catch a glimpse of Chief Nike Okundaye. She is a Batik and Adire textile designer and the founder of the gallery which houses over 25,000 works. I was fortunate enough to meet her the day before at her gallery. She creatively autographed a copy of her biography, which I had purchased. It is now a memento I will always cherish.
One had to also pass by the exhibition of the 2021 Access Bank ART X Prize winner, Chigozie Obi. In this her first solo exhibition entitled Le Journal de Gozie. Through oil and mixed media paintings and a video journal installations, Obi documents her first trip outside of Nigeria for a residency at Gasworks in the UK.
I also spotted South African artist Lulama Wolf showing her artwork at THNK Gallery.
The opening night of ART X Lagos felt like a family affair. It was an excellent opportunity to reconnect with people one might not have met in person and those who share a passion for the visual arts.
Look out for Part 2 of the ART X Lagos trip on our blog and Instragram page.