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Art X Lagos to complement Nigerian creative industry




A new art fair, Art X Lagos, designed to widen Nigeria’s connection to the contemporary art scene across Africa and the global community is set to open in Lagos.

While speaking to The Guardian on the project, the founder, Tokeni Peterside, said Art X Lagos has been created to consolidate on the role of the visual arts as an important component of the creative industry and how it can contribute to the increased visibility of contemporary artists from Africa. She said it is also aimed at creating a vibrant art market and positioning Lagos, as an emerging cultural capital on the continent.

Peterside stated: “The aim is to provide the best insight into what the visual arts sector in Africa has to offer to a wider local and international audience, and encourage African and international patrons to visit Lagos. We intend to bring in all types of arts that have not yet been displayed in Lagos, artists whose works have never been seen in Lagos from countries that have not engaged with Lagos so far.”

The 3-day art fair will take place at The Civic Centre, a state of the art conference and banquet in Victoria Island, Lagos, from Friday, November 4, through 6, 2016.

Peterside, who is trained as a marketer, said her exposure to art right from childhood and her passion inspired the project, adding, “I have been paying attention to creativity in Nigeria for a very long time. I have also spent the last 10 years enjoying art. Five years ago, I started thinking of how to play a role in the art sector to enhance the sector. I am a collector, and I have had the opportunity of meeting some great Nigerian artists and in the process of conversation with them on how they have managed to succeed. I started thinking of doing something to uphold the visions that they have.”

She lamented the low level of art appreciation in Nigeria despite the many talented artists the country is blessed with.“What we found is that there is a little bit of disconnect between these talented artists and the general public,” she noted. “If you ask average Nigerians, who are not studying at Yaba College of Technology, to name three or four Nigerian artists, most of them can’t. Meanwhile, if you put the work in front of them they get very excited.

“I don’t think Nigerians cannot appreciate art because by nature we are art-loving audience. There are some opportunities of appreciating art in Nigeria but it seems to be for a privileged few. You need access; art exhibitions are mostly private events that most people don’t get to know about. The circle seems to be growing small, which means that young people don’t cultivate the habit of seeking out art.”

Peterside explained that Art X Lagos would make art more inclusive so anyone could be engaged, adding, “All you need to do is go online to the website and put in your name and email address and you have your ticket.”

To her, it is very important that the divide between the artists and the general population closes. She also noted that there are many people, who have done great works for the art sector in Nigeria, noting, “people such as Kavita Chellaram with her art auction, which has helped in standardising the sector and opening up pricing and prize transparency, and also shining the light on many talented artists. We also have Bolanle Austin-Peters, who has done great work as well. So it is not to say great work has not been done, but it is just that there is still room for a lot more and with this kind of platform, we want to engage as many people as possible.”

On sponsorship, she said Art X Lagos has been fortunate, saying, “We have Access Bank Plc as our main sponsors. We also have Seven Up Bottling Company. I am encouraged by the interest and support we have received so far from all quarters. This affirms our decision to go ahead with such an ambitious project.”

According to her, as Nigeria and her neighbouring countries seek to diversify and expand their economies, investing in the creative industry via Art X Lagos, offers a vital platform for growth and increased visibility.

“Our aim with Art X Lagos is to encourage greater patronage of artists across board in Africa, and to inspire young people and the future generation of artists. We are very happy to be working with the acclaimed international curator, Bisi Silva, who is working closely with the galleries, as well as, developing a dynamic programme of exhibitions, commissions and talks.”

When asked whether the fair would exclude the modern and ancient arts, Peterside explained: “We are first and foremost a contemporary art fair; we have mostly encouraged the galleries to bring contemporary art, it is not to say in the future, we will not have some modern or ancient art.”

On the future and sustainability of Art X Lagos, she was optimistic, adding, “What we have been trying to do is to involve more stakeholders. For starters, people like Austin-Peters and Chellaram will be bringing their galleries’ side to support us with a lot from Terra Kulture. We have Quintessence, the oldest gallery in Nigeria, coming on board this platform. We are also trying to engage young artists. We have a competition called the ‘Art Expressed,’ recently launched, which is very democratic: all you need to do is send the picture of your work to us on Instagram and you automatically enter the competition.”

Art X Lagos will feature a selected group of invited art galleries from Nigeria, across Africa and the Diaspora, showcasing the most innovative contemporary art by over 45 established and emerging artists. Exhibitors at Art/ X Lagos will include galleries such as Art House – The Space (Nigeria), Bloom Art (Nigeria), SMO Contemporary (Nigeria), Goodman Gallery (South Africa) and Stevenson Gallery (South Africa) among others.

Included in the overall programme will be interactive projects and presentations that entertain a broader audience, including live areas for performance artists, illustrators and graffiti artists.

Peterside added that expected at the show would be a different kind of art fair, saying, “We are deliberately making it different to reach out to those Nigerians who are not so appreciative of art at the moment. The gallery will exhibit on one side and on the other we will have the photography. It is not a typical art exhibition; it is for people, who are curious about art and want to experience a different thing.”

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Tokini Peterside
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