Yinka Olatunbosun

The clock ticks steadily as the Art X Lagos team embarks on an intensive preparation towards making West Africa’s Premier Art Fair, Art X Lagos a bigger and bolder statement this year. Inside Miliki, Victoria Island Lagos, it was formally launched with a formal presentation of the Access Bank Art X Prize to the 2019 winner, Etinosa Yvonne by the Group Head of Corporate Communications, Access Bank Plc, Amaechi Okobi. The jury for the prize includes Wura-Natasha Ogunji, Emeka Ogboh, Ibrahim Mahama, Allesio Antoniolli and Zina Saro-Wiwa.

That evening, Tokini Peterside, the Founder and Director, ART X LAGOS had welcomed the guests with a speech chronicling the daring beginnings of the fair till the point of expansion that the mega art show will witness this year.
“I created Art X Lagos in 2016 to address what I saw as the untapped potential in the Nigerian visual art and creative community; to serve as a bridge between art and the rest of the world; an opportunity for exchange that could propel our artists and their fellow artists across Africa and the diaspora further unto the international stage. I want us to continue positioning the visual art as an important part of the creative industry,’’ she said.

The Art X Lagos logo is indeed a symbol of the melting pot that the fair represents to the art community in Nigeria and indeed Africa. It does not just showcase the visual art offerings; it serves as a rostrum on which live music thrives. Peterside, who has been rebuilding the template for the fourth edition of the fair disclosed why the fair will not hold at its traditional venue- the Civic Centre, Victoria Island.

“We have had the three previous editions at the Civic Centre,” she added, excitedly. “People were asking for more space to see the art. We had to show that we were listening. We are taking on one of Lagos state’s heritage hotels, Federal Palace Hotel and Casino and we are transforming it just as we have transformed the Civic Centre. And I can’t wait for you to join us in seven weeks’ time.”

Call it the ambitious edition, there is a 65 percent increase in the number of exhibitors with two new galleries from South Africa, two new ones from Ivory coast; others from Senegal, Ghana, Germany, Spain and the UK.

“We are introducing new sections. There is Art X Modern, where we open up the audience to modern art. It is sponsored by IBTC Pensions,’’ she revealed. More performers are to feature at the Art X Live, which is the live music section of the fair which runs till dawn. Art X Lagos will commence on September 30 with a private viewing for collectors only. On Friday November 1, the doors will be opened to the Press and the VIPs while the next two days will be accessible by the general audience. On November 2 and 3, there will be Art X talks in the afternoon.

Some of the artists to be featured at the fair include Emeka Udemba (Nigeria/Germany) Abe Odedina, Adelaide Damoah (UK), Anjel Boris Anje (Cameroon), Arim Andrew (Uganda), Ayesha Feisal (UK), Babajide Olatunji (Nigeria), Blessing Ngobeni (South Africa), Bob-Nosa Uwagboe (Nigeria), Bodo Fils BBM (DRC/ France), Boris Nzebo (Gabon/Cameroon), Chike Obeagu (Nigeria) and Claudie Dimbeng (Cote d’Ivoire/ France). Others are Gareth Nyandoro (Zimbabwe), Gary Stephens (US/ South Africa), Henri Abraham Univers (France), Jimoh Buraimoh (Nigeria), Joy Labinjo (UK), Kassou Seydou (Senegal), Misca Mohmmed (Sudan), Nike Okundaye(Nigeria), Niyi Olagunju (Nigeria/ US/ UK), Peju Alatise (Nigeria), Prof Ablade Glover (Ghana) among others.

“We have gone to a venue that will allow us to expand. What I can readily share with you is that even with that expanded venue, we still need a bigger venue. There is so much more that we can achieve with Art X Lagos. After the fair, we will be announcing how many visitors came through our doors but we expect a record number this year for sure. Tayo Ogunbiyi is our new artistic director. Her curated projects will cover photography, video art, virtual reality art, augmented reality art,” Peterside told THISDAY in an exclusive chat after the formal launch of this season of Art X Lagos.

With the theme, “Art in Life and Life in Art”, the fair is set to expand global conversations on the future of art. On the question of the inclusion of leading South African galleries in this edition despite the diplomatic row between Nigeria and South Africa, Peterside explained that the alliance had long been formed before the recent black on black violence reported in South Africa.

“We have Goodman Gallery; the biggest gallery on the African continent and they work with amazing artists globally. They don’t have any fears. Those of us who are on the right side of the narrative need to show that we will not be deterred by people with the wrong agenda. We need to show that there can be unity on the continent. We need to show those who practice ‘Xenophobia’ in South Africa that Nigeria can do the right thing. Even before this crisis hit, we had arranged for these galleries to come. Now, I am even excited for them to come because we need to show that there can be unity. We still have to be careful and think about the security of everyone. My only hope is that the people of Lagos will step up to do the right thing.”

Meanwhile, the 2019 winner of the Access Bank Art X Prize, Etinosa Yvonne who smiled home with the prize money of N1.5m will go for a three-month art residency next year at Gasworks, UK in addition to the solo presentation of her multimedia art project at the fair.

In spite of the pressure and demands of the fair, Peterside expressed optimism that the workload will be shared so as to avoid being overwhelmed by the project.

“I am really grateful for the team that I have. Sometimes, I have to say to them that ‘Please, don’t work this weekend.’ They are so passionate about what we are doing,’’ she gushed.

Some of the music artists lined up for ART X LIVE which is curated by Lanre Masha (music) and Faridah Folawiyo (art), include WurlD, Lady Donli, Buju and TMXO.