With 23 galleries, 93 artists from more than 24 countries, ART X Lagos billed as West Africa’s Premier International Art Fair lived up to its pre-exhibition ratings and increasing in leaps and bounds, Babajide Okeowo who attended the fair reports.
When Tokini Peterside conceived the idea of ART X Lagos, she would not have imagined the impact the exhibition will come to have. Launched in 2016, ART X Lagos was designed to showcase the best and most innovative contemporary and modern art from the African continent and its diaspora. Now in its fourth edition, the art fair has grown in leaps and bounds and has gone on to become the country’s first major international art fair. The first three editions took place at the Civic Centre, Victoria Island, but the 2019 edition took place between November 1 – 3, 2019 at the expansive ground of the Federal Palace Hotel bringing stakeholders from the Arts sector under one roof.
The fair’s opening ceremony was overstocked with important personalities from all sectors of the Nigerian economy. The roll-call was headlined by Nigeria’s Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, Lago state governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, Access Bank’s Plc Chief Executive Officer, CEO Herbert Wigwe, President, Lagos Chamber of Commerce & Industry, Mr Paul Babatunde Ruwase, Sally Mbanefo, Director-General, Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC) amongst a host of others. During the three days fair, Galleries, Artistes and Exhibitors showcased their arts to collectors. From 18 galleries last year, it increased to 23 for the 2019 edition which signals the growing acceptance of the fair.
Declaring the fair open, VP Osinbajo posited that art is a reflection and journal of human emotions.
“Art is a reflection and a journal of human emotions. It documents crucial elements of our lives. This is why I was truly privileged to see what Tokini Peterside is doing with Art X Lagos, a platform that showcases contemporary & modern art from the African continent and Diaspora” he said.
On her part, Tokini Peterside, the founder of the Art X Lagos fair announced that Nigerian art would no longer be defined by outsiders. Peterside promised that the artists exhibited at the fair would show the world “what it means to be an individual, to stand out, to have no fear, to not conform, to play the game the way we want to play” she said.
A Talk Show titled Collecting Live sponsored by Stanbic IBTC Pensions dealt with the issue of how collectors decide which works to purchase, and how do they assemble a collection over some time? How does one begin collecting and so on? Three collectors with unique perspectives Remi Folawiyo, Kathryn Weir and Tunji Akinkotun did justice to the topic which was moderated by Oba Nsugbe
Budding artists are also rewarded for their hard work during the fair through the Access Bank ART X Prize. The bank has remained committed to shinning the light on arts of African origin as well as encouraging artists with financial and platform support.
The 2019 edition of the Access Bank ART X Prize was won by Etinosa Yvonne, a self-taught documentary photographer, based in Abuja, originally from Benin City who considers photography to be a medium of expression and a tool to drive social change. For her efforts, she walked away with a cash prize of N1.5m, a three-month residency at Gasworks, London, in 2020, and a solo presentation at ART X Lagos in 2020.
Etinosa fenced off stiff competition from Ayomitunde Adeleke, Christopher Nelson Obuh, Yadichinma Ukoha-Kalu and Peter Ebahi Okotor to emerge as the winner. She was declared a winner by a jury of 5 renowned artists and industry stakeholders, namely Emeka Ogboh, Wura-Natasha Ogunji, Ibrahim Mahama, Alessio Antoniolli, and Zina Saro-Wiwa.
Rising star Emeka Ogboh’s two-channel video “Alaa” (2014), which pairs detailed images of Lagos with sound also featured prominently at the fair.
The fair also recorded sales in abundance. At first-time participant Dakar-based Galerie Cécile Fakhoury, a large abstract figurative work by Brooklyn-based artist Abdoulaye Diarrassouba, also known as Aboudia, sold for $28,000 to a Nigerian collector. At Abuja-based Retro Gallery, works by Nigerian pop artist Williams Chechet were sold to Nigerian collectors for $4,000 each, Addis Ababa-based Addis Fine Art sold all eight works on canvas by 28-year-old Ethiopian painter Tizita Berhanu priced between $4,500 and $5,500 to mostly local collectors while Arthouse – The Space gallery sold an oil painting by Peju Alatise for $15,000, a screenprint by Diana Ejaita for $850, and works by Ngozi Schommers in the range of $5,000 to $10,000.
The local and international acceptance of the fair is further underscored by the arrays of sponsors of ART X Lagos. This year’s edition was sponsored by Access Bank Plc, 7Up, Ford Foundation, Stanbic IBTC Pensions, Chapel Hill Denham, Kia motors, Anap Jets, Tiger Beer, Leadway Assurance, Sage Innovation Centre, Tangerine, Veuve Clicquot to mention a few.
As participants dispersed at the close of the fair on Sunday, November 3, 2019, it is safe to assume that they will be looking forward to the next instalment in 2020.