How ART X Lagos Galvanizes Nigeria’s Art Scene
Victor Ehikhamenor, installation view of “Ulin-nóifo, The Lineage That Never Ends” at ART X Lagos, 2022. Courtesy of ART X Lagos.
Lagos’s cultural calendar launches with Lagos Fashion Week at the end of October and culminates with Art Week at the beginning of November, bringing a global gathering of artists, as well as designers, collectors, and the creatively curious. Since its first edition in 2016, ART X Lagos has become a staple event of the week, alongside other initiatives including LagosPhoto, Design Week Lagos, and the Lagos Biennial. Nonprofit and artist-led spaces including 16/16, Treehouse, Centre for Contemporary Art (CCA) Lagos, and the Yemisi Shyllon Museum, among others, have all contributed to cementing Africa’s most populous city as an important global destination for contemporary art, architecture, and design.
Held from November 2nd through 5th at the iconic Federal Palace Hotel grounds in Victoria Island, the main business and financial center of Lagos, this year’s Art X Lagos, under the theme of “The Dialogue,” has been scaled back to 10 participating galleries including Galerie MAM (Cameroon), Nike Art Gallery (Nigeria), Afriart Gallery (Uganda), Tiwani Contemporary (U.K. and Nigeria), Gallery 1957 (Ghana), and Wunika Mukan Gallery (Nigeria).
“We decided to go ahead with this different format for ART X Lagos 2023 due to the current socioeconomic challenges Nigeria is facing, and to fulfill, at the same time, our desire to continue to support the ecosystem in a way that is responsible and sustainable,” said the fair’s founder, Tokini Peterside-Schwebig, in an email exchange. “We want people to take time to talk to each other and this is why we have placed our talks and cinema program at the epicenter of the fair and not on its periphery—we are inviting our audiences to get deeply involved and ignite the act of dialogue, at this pivotal time.”
Additionally, the fair will feature a series of curated exhibitions including “Writing With…,”which is curated by Missla Libsekal and features multi-hyphenate artist and printmaker Bruce Onobrakpeya, a founding figure of modern art in Nigeria whose career spans 65 years. Elsewhere is “Graphic Stories,” a survey of illustrations in Nigerian mass media from the 1940s to 1980s. Live music returns with the crowd-drawing “ART X Live!,” which features the musicians Tay Iwar and Azekel and is curated by Lanre Masha and Ayo Lawson. The Access ART X Prize, awarded to early-career artists from Africa and its diaspora, will also present a two-person showcase of 2022 winners Dafe Oboro (Nigeria Prize winner) and Belinda Kazeem-Kamiński (Africa/Diaspora Prize winner). New for this edition of the fair, ART X Cinema will showcase films by artists including Sammy Baloji, Onyeka Igwe, Goddy Leye, Ibrahim Mahama, and Fatimah Tuggar. (Igwe and Tuggar will be part of the Nigerian pavilion at the Venice Biennale next year.)
This year’s participating galleries range from long-time participants like Nike Art Gallery to up-and-coming spaces like O’DA Art, which will spotlight Uthman Wahab’s “The Phenomenal Women” series and offer a focused presentation of African and African diaspora artists, emphasizing both the growing local collector base and the need to build and strengthen the local ecosystem. Other highlights include SMO Contemporary Art’s group presentation, which features Lagos artist Christopher Samuel Idowu’s astute figurative studies of his environment and Johannesburg artist Nelson Makamo’s charcoal and oil paintings celebrating African youth that counter stereotypes of poverty. The booth will also feature painted stone sculptures by Nigerian artist Ejiro Fenegal that explore the female form.
Wunika Mukan, founder of Wunika Mukan Gallery, is another new exhibitor at the fair and will be presenting a solo booth of paintings by Lagos-based artist Adulphina Imuede. Mukan highlighted the critical importance of engaging and growing local collectors. “There has always been a culture of collecting amongst Nigerians, who I believe have always supported local artists,” she told Artsy. “My most reliable base of collectors are my Nigerian collectors and I think that’s how it should be. It’s important personally that the artists I work with are solid at home and always have a home to rely on and grow from.”
Stephen Price, Purple Night #2, 2023. Courtesy of the artist and kó.
Long-time participant kó—established by Kavita Chellaram, a Lagos-based collector and founder of auction house Arthouse Contemporary—will present a truly intergenerational booth. Bringing a dialogue between ceramicists Bisila Noha and Ozioma Onuzulike, the booth will feature works that both deconstruct classical clay traditions and recast them. It will also feature colorful geometric paintings by Deborah Segun, abstract immersive landscapes by Kwadwo Asiedu’s abstract immersive landscape, and Stephen Price’s densely layered figurative–abstract paintings.
ART X Lagos has long positioned itself as a local, regional, and global fair with a strong local base. Even as it responds to the immediate challenges of the present, scaling back the fair has not meant losing its core ambition or focus. Art X Lagos seeks to challenge and test the notion of what an art fair can be and will continue to evolve and build into the future.