Renowned artist Yinka Shonibare (CBE) is boosting people working in contemporary art, design, architecture, agriculture, and ecology with the Guest Artists Space (GAS) Foundation.
The ambitious charity project founded in 2019 and located in Oniru, Lagos, and Ijebu, will give artists space and resources to research, experiment, share, educate and develop their work.
Speaking on why he established the space at its opening on Friday, February 25, Shonibare disclosed that there were fewer opportunities for Nigerian artists despite the abundance of talents. This thus inspired him to provide a space where creatives can work without interference.
He said, “When you provide space for artists, and they don’t have to think about paying their rent. They have more time to create their works, and you inevitably get better quality of work because they have time. That essentially is what this residency does.
“So, when you give them space and give them somewhere to stay, they can focus, they can do research. That’s the opportunity I’m trying to provide here.”
The holder of the Commander of the Order of the British Empire title further stated that the space aims to afford Nigerian creatives to compete with their foreign counterparts to turn out works.
“If you are making your work here in Nigeria, but you can’t compare what you are making to what your colleagues and other artists are making in other countries, your standard will be toned down because you are not challenged. By bringing artists from different parts of the world here, artists here can see the international standards and make their works as good as those, if not better,” he added.
Also speaking, Temitayo Ogunbiyi, GAS Director, disclosed that applications for the first batch of residents would open on March 20. The opportunity, she further noted, comes with a stipend to support any costs during their time there.
“We are very excited to use this opportunity to share this fantastic initiative,” she said.
The first GAS building in Oniru, Lagos, is a modern inspired structure around a central courtyard. It was designed by Ghanaian British architect Elsie Owusu in collaboration with Lagos based Nigerian architect Nihinlola Shonibare of NS Design Consult. The designers were also commissioned to execute the interior design concept and delivery.
The space also intends to support international cultural exchange establishing connections between Africa’s art markets and the international art community. It is equipped with live/work units and an adaptable multi-use project and gallery space.
As part of the launch, an exhibition featuring a selection of works acquired by Shonibare over the last 20 years is currently on display in the gallery, resident rooms, and the common areas of the Foundation in Lagos.
This installation of photographs, sculptures, paintings, works on paper, and mixed media collage curated by Ogunbiyi encourages people to navigate the space of GAS Foundation while considering contemporary art in conversation with works from Nigerian modernism and antiquity.
The second building designed by Papa Omotayo of MOE+ with interior design by Temitayo Shonibare sits on the lush 54-acre Ecology Green Farm in Ijebu that produces crops ranging from cassava and cashew to peppers and maize. It will also provide a residency space for artists, scientists, agriculturists, and researchers. It was created with sustainable infrastructure and food security for the local community in mind.
The building has stayed true to the farm’s guiding ‘sustainability first’ ethos by only using local materials for construction; they include 40,000 bricks made from soil dug up for the foundations. The site has an exciting future ahead, with the construction of four workshop buildings dedicated to craft practices, including weaving and ceramics commencing this spring.
According to Shonibare, the space’s goal is to contribute to Nigeria’s food sustainability and job creation.
“People can get food near where they live. Not everything has to be brought in from abroad. On the farm, we have excellent produce. We are also training people on how to carry out sustainable agriculture. And on the farm, we also have a house and studios where the artists could go. So, we are holding workshops on the farm. We want to support practices like textile and ceramics. Also, those kinds of artists will be able to have space to make their work,” he noted.
GAS Foundation is an evolution of Guest Projects, Shonibare’s long-standing, London based artists residency project. It receives strategic and fundraising support from the Yinka Shonibare Foundation (charity number 1183321), registered in England and Wales. GAS will begin welcoming an exciting roster of local and international talent for residencies and fellowships from April 2022.