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West Africa's first art fair draws thousands to Lagos, Nigeria
People register at the Nigeria annual Art X event in Lagos, Nigeria, on November 4, 2017. The second edition of Art X this year saw works shown from more than 60 artists from 15 African countries at 14 galleries. EMMANUEL AREWA / AFP.

LAGOS.- Building upon its successful 2016 debut, ART X Lagos 2017 boldly reinforced Nigeria and Africa’s growing credentials on the global contemporary art scene. Consolidating its position as West Africa’s premier international art fair, 2017 saw a 50% increase in visitors.

On loan from Access Bank to the fair and welcoming guests to the exhibition hall, were the famous seven wooden sculptures by Nigeria’s greatest modern artist Ben Enwuonwu MBE. The works were originally commission by the Daily Mirror in 1960 and had never, until now, been publicly displayed in Nigeria. This unveiling coincides with the artist’s 100th natal anniversary.

An outdoor installation, Smile, by Olatunde Alara, commissioned by Absolut to tackle the theme ‘Artist as Citizen’, also welcomed guests to the venue. A colouring danfo, designed by Olalekan Jeyifous and curated by A Whitespace Creative Agency, was also stationed at the entrance to the exhibition hall, inviting guests young and old to indulge their creative impulses.

The main exhibition floor was home to 14 exhibiting galleries including Art House - The Space (Nigeria), Bloom Art (Nigeria), Fondation Donwahi (Ivory Coast), Gallery 1957 (Ghana), Galerie Atiss (Senegal), Gallery MAM (Cameroon), Nubuke Foundation (Ghana), Retro Africa (Nigeria), Signature Beyond (Nigeria), SMO Contemporary (Nigeria), Stevenson Gallery (South Africa), TAFETA (United Kingdom), and Tiwani Contemporary (United Kingdom).

The 65 artists on show included the Nigerian-born, British-based, globally renowned artist and sculptor Yinka Shonibare MBE; Zanele Muholi (South Africa); Jeremiah Quarshie (Ghana); Modupeola Fadugba (Nigeria); Nandipha Mntambo (Swaziland); Virginia Chihota (Zimbabwe); Boris Nzebo (Cameroon); Babajide Olatunji (Nigeria); Pamela Phatsimo Sunstrum (Botswana); Amadou Sanogo (Mali) and Portia Zvavahera (Zimbabwe) amongst others. In addition, four independent artists - Polly Alakija, Rom Isichei, Lakin Ogunbanwo and Oluseye presented a selection of their works.

In addition to the exhibitions, the programme of events included a series of talks by eminent artists, including Lemi Ghariokwu, the mastermind behind Afrobeat legend, Fela Kuti’s album artwork; Ed Keazor; Stacy Hardy from Chimurenga South Africa; and Olu Amoda.

The second day saw the return of ART X Live! in partnership with Absolut. The 2017 edition tagged ‘Electric Africa: The Digital Orchestra’, saw a unique fusion of digital art by Williams Chechet & Osaze Amadasun with electric music. As expected, young art enthusiasts turned out in large numbers to watch Poe, Tomi Thomas, Wavy the Creator, Eko Samba and producers Aye and Leriq team up to deliver an unparalleled live music experience.

The highlight of the events programme included talks by Njideka Akinyili-Crosby, a MacArthur Genius Fellow. Speaking with moderator Temitayo Ogunbiyi, Njideka talked about her upbringing and how it shaped her career as an artist. Other speakers included Bimpe Nkontchou, Eric Fajemisin, Femi Akinsanya, Femi Lijadu, Ngoné Fall, Peju Alatise and Wura-Natasha Ogunji. The ART X Prize with Access Bank winner, Habeeb Andu, was also announced at the end of the talks.

Speaking at the closing, Tokini Peterside thanked all the sponsors, the advisory board and members of the public who have made ART X Lagos the success it has become:

“Following last year’s turnout of 5000 people, it is both exciting and humbling to learn that over 9,000 people have walked through our doors these past 3 days! We thank all our sponsors, exhibitors, artists and the general public for your support. Our 2017 edition has been a phenomenal success due to your participation and the passion that you have brought into the experience. We can now say with confidence that the future is incredibly bright, and that we are on course to deliver on our mission – to magnify the patronage of African artists across the continent, and to inspire the future generations of African artists. We assure you of our commitment to maintaining ART X Lagos as a leading light for African contemporary art, and look forward to sharing with you in the new year our plans for 2018.”

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