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1. Academic perspectives

Building global art infrastructure from Nigeria: ART X Lagos and Lagos Biennial 2019
“We Are Our Own Sun”

Stacey KENNEDY

Résumés

Cet article avance l’idée selon laquelle le développement des infrastructures artistiques sur le continent africain renforce les perspectives africaines au sein de l’écosystème artistique mondial. Bien qu’on ait beaucoup critiqué les dichotomies centre/périphérie, le marché de l’art contemporain africain en plein essor ces deux dernières décennies (Enwezor & Okeke-Agulu) continue d’être valorisé dans les capitales artistiques euro-américaines, sous les systèmes hégémoniques d’un jugement de valeur esthétique et d’une critique fondés sur des positions occidentales (Corrigall). Les études de cas de deux interventions institutionnelles, ART X Lagos (foire d’art) et la Biennale de Lagos (exemples datant tous deux de 2019), montrent un tournant dans l’intérêt des récits et des histoires artistiques, qui se portent désormais vers le Nigeria, et offrent des exemples de transformation des infrastructures artistiques mondiales depuis le continent africain. Fondé sur des recherches ethnographiques comprenant de l’observation participative, des entretiens avec les programmateurs et les artistes, ainsi que des interprétations des lieux d’exposition et des œuvres, cet article mêle approches empirique et théorique, ancrées dans la critique post/décoloniale, une approche très engagée dans la pratique artistique et de programmation. Cet article contribue à la connaissance empirique des événements artistiques dans les espaces nigérians et à la compréhension des contextes créatifs sur le continent. Il en ressort que les efforts collaboratifs fournis par les artistes nigérians et de la diaspora africaine se portent sur la consolidation de Lagos comme centre artistique — son « propre soleil » — dans un écosystème artistique régional et continental. Finalement l’article attire l’attention des institutions artistiques occidentales et réaligne les circuits internationaux d’art contemporains vers le Nigéria.

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1. Introduction

  • 1 The traditional art centers of New York, London and Paris are now joined by Hong Kong, Singapore an (...)
  • 2 As example, commercial events such as 1-54 Art Fair (Morocco), Johannesburg Art Fair (South Africa) (...)

1Contemporary African art remains most frequently traded in metropoles far removed from its site of production, as the value and aesthetic critique of art continues to be dominated by hegemonic Euro-American ‘art capitals’ (Artsy; Corrigall).1 However, building on scholarship which documents the changing global geography of art (Castellote & Okwuosa), the paper argues that developments in art infrastructure on the African continent are now strengthening African points of view and positions within the global contemporary art ecosystem. Case studies of two significant Africa-based visual art events, ART X Lagos (art fair) and Lagos Biennial, are presented as detailed examples of institutional development which provide a counter-narration of contemporary art from local, regional and continental perspectives. As much of the intellectual discourse around African art takes place outside the confines of academic institutions, art fairs and biennials have become crucial locations for scholars and arts practitioners to debate and develop the field. When this discourse takes place on the continent and is led by African artists, curators and practitioners, it has the potential to re-centre the art world based on African viewpoints, and place African concerns and dynamics at the heart of discussions.2

  • 3 ART X Talks: We Are Our Own Sun, Cultivating An Art Ecosystem. The line references a quote by Ousma (...)

2Whilst notions of art centres/peripheries have been debunked by postcolonial scholarship, they are still pervasive in the art market and often evoked by artists and curators as themes in their work. For example, a talk staged by ART X (2019), We Are Our Own Sun: Cultivating An Art Ecosystem 3the title of which plays on Ousmane Sembene’s refusal to “define oneself in relation to Europe” — saw Nigerian arts practitioners assert their independence from the hegemony of European art history, adopting the language of postcolonial theorists such as Achille Mbembe, who called for Africa to “become its own centre” (Blaser). The paper will demonstrate that arts practitioners associated with ART X and Lagos Biennial consider Lagos, Nigeria and Africa as their art centre, and that their institution building draws the attention of the Western art market to the continent as a result. Founder and Director of ART X, Tokini Peterside elaborates: “We have had an art scene for a very long time. The question is whether the scene was structured in a way that the Western art world could align with” (Proctor). Here the emphasis is on Western art institutions seeking connection and alignment with Lagos, rather than arts practitioners in Lagos desiring to configure with the West. Inspired by Mbembe and Sembene, the paper will therefore demonstrate how Lagos Biennial and ART X cultivate an art ecosystem which sees Africa become its ‘own sun’.

3ART X and Lagos Biennial challenge, influence and realign the infrastructure for global contemporary art towards Nigeria and the African continent in two related ways. Firstly, they create physical infrastructure, to become platforms which actively contribute to building Lagos’s influence and reputation as a centre of artistic creation, training, critique and knowledge production. Secondly, they connect local and global art networks to amplify the creativity of artists from Africa and the diaspora. The article will draw on empirical data gathered in Lagos in 2019 to demonstrate these claims. From the many cultural and artistic events which are held across Nigeria, ART X and Lagos Biennial were chosen as case studies because they answer a call for research into exhibitions, deemed necessary as new curators, museums, artists and markets provoke shifts within a new world order (Gardner & Green 4). Art fairs and biennials are often accused of being short-term gatherings with no lasting impact, yet they are structurally important as distributed events in their localities (Smith 2, 8). The study of ART X and Lagos Biennial offers a novel angle on the institutional and infrastructure building achievements of arts practitioners in Lagos as they aim to satisfy the competing demands of stakeholders and produce art events in a country with poorly supported cultural infrastructure. Both institutions — although with different mission statements — share an ideological commitment to challenge the predominance of Euro-American art ‘centres’ and reinforce the primacy of Lagos and Nigeria for art and knowledge production.

  • 4 Further critique of ART X and Lagos Biennial is offered in my forthcoming doctoral dissertation.

4Qualitative data and interviews were gathered during my full-time work placement with ART X, and through participant observation as a visitor to the Biennial. Based on my previous experience in the commercial art world I was employed on a voluntary basis as the Event Production Manager for Art X (2019), maternity cover for one of the management team. My role was to oversee the guest relations and customer facing aspects of the fair, a post which enabled me to experience the art scene from within a Lagos-based arts organisation and work closely alongside Nigerian artists, curators and cultural producers. Developing my connections and networks helped to gather interviews, although forming personal relationships has required continual scrutiny of my own partiality and objectivity. This close engagement with the Lagosian art world allowed me to respond to scholars who call for art historians to connect with “the decentred perspective of connected stories, help to identify actors and circulations that the canon has so far masked” (Marchant). I therefore make no apology that the voices I centre are the creatives who work closely with these two institutions, as the concern of the paper is primarily addressing their work, motivations and intentions.4 This close engagement with individual practitioners and my position as insider/outsider has allowed me to better understand the ambivalences, complexities, challenges and opportunities of creating and selling contemporary African art in a globally connected art world (Nyabola; Mazrui).

2. Institution building

2.1 ART X Lagos: the art fair

  • 5 Peterside studied law at the London School of Economics and began her own collection of African art (...)
  • 6 https://artxcollective.com/ (accessed 27/04/2021).

5Since its 2016 inception, ART X Lagos has built reputation as a significant, continent-based, commercial art fair event. Founded by Nigerian creative entrepreneur Tokini Peterside,5 the fair is part of ART X Collective, a platform launched in 2013 to ‘empower Africa’s creative talent.’ ART X Collective also includes ART X Prize, ART X Live! and an advisory arm which supports pioneering entrepreneurs and brands across the culture, design and luxury sectors.6 The art fair is in essence a trade show, where buyers and clients gather to make deals as the sale of contemporary art becomes more event-driven and less gallery-based. ART X showcases the latest artwork by the most prominent African and diaspora artists, but as a primarily commercial venture, the artwork on display is on the whole less cutting edge than other exhibition formats such as the biennial.

  • 7 Prior to 2019 the art fair was held at the Civic Centre, Victoria Island.
  • 8 Adire are indigo-dyed cotton cloths using a resist-dying technique to create striking patterns in b (...)

6ART X (2019) was held in the grounds of the five-star Federal Palace Hotel on Victoria Island. This is a secure, elite enclave, whose peaceful environs are the ideal location to host an upmarket art fair in a city which can be overwhelming.7 The event took place within two large, permanent marquees and adopted a standard global art fair format, with temporary walls transforming the space into twenty-two gallery booths, three curated spaces, one interactive arts area, two guest lounges, a well-stocked shop selling ART X products, a venue for the talks programme and a virtual reality experience. The twenty-two galleries and ninety artists exhibiting represented over twenty-five countries from Africa and the diaspora. Any ‘flattening’ of the global art experience was subverted, as ART X possessed all the markers of an attractive international art event whilst creating a social space which “captured the essence and spirit” of its Lagosian locality (Emina & Freeman). The ticket price was purposely kept low to attract visitors, and local groups of students and academics were offered free access. Temitayo Ogunbiyi, artistic director of ART X, notes that it is imperative to create a model that works for Lagos: “We must identify the models that work within our context and consider our particular histories” (Seror). The 2019 edition demonstrated this with a celebratory Lagosian aesthetic throughout, VIP Alara lounge showcased contemporary African interior design and the ancient craft of adire fabric (Fig. 1), whilst the outside refreshment area served Nigerian delicacies such as suya in an upbeat, cosmopolitan atmosphere.8 As Ogunbiyi alludes to, ART X forms an independent platform grounded in pre- and postcolonial Nigerian history, to emphasise Lagos as an art centre of national, regional and continental significance.

Fig. 1 Alara Lounge, ART X Lagos opening night, October 2019. Photograph by the author

  • 9 In 2019 guests Bolaji Balogun (CEO Chapel Hill Denham); Herbert Onyewumbu Wigwe (CEO Access Bank PL (...)

7The fair was therefore purposefully injected with considered local and Nigerian character and although described as ‘the Frieze of West Africa’ for its ability to attract the international contemporary ‘art crowd’ (Emina & Freeman), Peterside asserts that it “is a proudly Lagosian entity”. The fair attracts attention from the social and political elite, for example in 2019 Nigerian Vice President, Professor Yemi Osibanjo made a private visit.9 ART X responds to the challenges facing the visual arts in Lagos, which Ogunbiyi outlines as: “limited funding, a lack of suitable exhibition spaces, much needed human capacity within the sector, and an increased critical awareness of visual art” (Seror). The fair holds its own within the hierarchical, monopolistic structure of the global art world and creates a relatively inclusive platform for the artistic community and the public to convene and connect. As an established annual event, ART X contributes to institution building in Lagos by developing the West African collector base for art and developing the reputation of the city as an art centre which draws the interest of international collectors and institutions.

2.2 Lagos Biennial: How to Build a Lagoon With Just a Bottle of Wine

8Whilst ART X is a profit-making venture supported by funding garnered from the private sector, the Lagos Biennial is not a commercially driven project. In 2017 Nigerian artist Folakunle Oshun became the first artistic director of this ‘indigenous biennial’, which aimed to “position the city of Lagos — with its highly international purview — as [a] hub in supporting and promoting contemporary art through exhibitions, public programmes, publications, research, and residencies” (Proctor). The exhibition was developed as part of the Àkéte Art Foundation, a Lagos-based not-for-profit cultural organisation whose main objective is to promote contemporary art in Nigeria and “broach complex social and political problems, cultivate new publics, and establish fresh modes of engagement within the city, as well as throughout the country and internationally.”10 The mission statement of the Foundation resonates with the values and vision of ART X Collective, as both institutions aim to initiate social change through the promotion of art and culture in Nigeria.

9The 2019 Lagos Biennial, How to Build a Lagoon With Just a Bottle of Wine, was a provocation for both artists and the public to consider the history and structure of the city’s built environment, elaborated through the site specific nature of the Biennial itself.11 The title was taken from the poem, A Song for Lagos by Akeem Lasisi and conjures up images of transformation, of resourcefulness, of building something from nothing.12 This resonates with the setting chosen for the Biennial, a dilapidated and run down twenty-five story modernist high rise on Lagos Island, Independence House was commissioned and built by the British government in 1960 as a testimonial to Nigeria’s sovereignty (Fig 2.). After independence the building was used as office space for various major corporations, becoming the government defence headquarters under Ibrahim Babangida’s administration until 1993 when it was partially destroyed by a fire and then abandoned. The inaugural Lagos Biennial (2017) had been held in a disused railway compound in a similarly advanced state of disorder which also spoke of times past. This is a deliberate strategy to bring attention to obscured areas of Lagos and to open up, repurpose and rethink space within the city, to show artwork in such unexpected venues challenges tired tropes and fetishisation of urban Lagos and its informal economies.

10As a venue to present contemporary art, Independence House was the antithesis of the globally flattened white cube gallery space. The curators did not make use of false walls or panels, choosing to expose the original blueprint of the building and place artworks in direct proximity to the city, on the building’s walls, floors, open terraces and rooftops. Although the organising team had undertaken an immense cleaning mission, the building remained dirty and decayed. Locked rooms concealed areas too unsafe or unsavoury to be visited; rubble and rubbish were hidden behind partitions; exposed wires hung from ceilings, and water dripped down walls punctuated with graffiti. An odorous, chaotic and ambitious place to present art — far from the ubiquitous clean lines of the contemporary global gallery — the evocative postcolonial history of the building was fully exposed and the space served as a metaphor for the enduring neglect of Nigeria by the state. This choice of location suggests that the urban structures of Lagos offer a vehicle to negotiate the postcolonial present, reconsider the complexities of the past and to reconceptualise the future.

Fig. 2 Independence House, setting for the Lagos Biennial, October 2019. Photograph by the author

11The Biennial Director asserts his independent curatorial mission: “if you really have to do it you will get it done. Funding means that someone is watching you and will probably co-opt your narrative […] I count the cost” (Oshun).13 Unlike ART X’s private sponsorship arrangements, and without substantial state or corporate funding, the success of Lagos Biennial was dependent on the collaborative efforts of the team, their volunteers, and the participating artists. The work of more than forty local and international artists had been chosen for the exhibition, with several installations the result of residencies within the city. Therefore, artists were on hand to assist with the set up. Curators Tosin Oshinowo, Antawan Byrd and Oyindamola Fakeye had adapted the selection process to invite proposals through an open call process or invited international artists of interest of whom they were familiar, but stipulated that artwork was to be produced in Lagos using locally sourced material to remove shipping or insurance costs. This was not detrimental to the event, on the contrary it related the work to its local setting in perhaps unexpected ways.14 As Ogunbiyi suggests, the lack of infrastructure and sparse funding creates an imperative for art practitioners to find solutions to specific local issues.

  • 15 Other speeches were given by Folakunle Oshun (director) and Tosin Oshinowo (co-curator).

12This is not to imply that the Biennial did not have any support or sponsorship. The opening ceremony was held at the prestigious MUSON Centre (Musical Society of Nigeria), a 1980s performance venue which comprises the Shell Nigeria hall and Mobil block; branding testament to Nigeria’s oil boom days and suggestive of the role which private finance initiatives can play in funding Lagos’s art scene. A keynote address was given by Oliver Enwonwu, son of renowned modernist Ben Enwonwu, whose gallery Omeka sponsors the Biennial. Enwonwu highlighted the possibility of achievement through collaboration, describing the independent foundation as offering a platform for freedom, diversity and experimentation.15 It drew the attention of international arts institutions, and I witnessed many well-known art world individuals at the opening of the exhibition. Exercising critical thought and producing alternative realities, Lagos Biennial invites us to reconceptualise the past and think about what alternative futures can be built. As a provocative and politically charged exhibition, the event makes a critical, historically reflexive and counter-hegemonic intervention to the primacy of Western art narratives.

3. Artistic creation and critique

3.1 Lagos Biennial: from the modern to the contemporary

13Nigerian modern and contemporary artists mix past and present form, style and theme, so that the specific ‘tapestry’ of conditions for artistic engagement is woven from diverse multicultural threads ‘forged during the colonial encounter, as well as from the intermixture of histories, cultures and subjectivities before and after colonialism’ (Okeke-Agulu 12). Artists in Nigeria and across the continent have been drawing upon formal elements, conceptual strategies and technical processes from indigenous cultural traditions, as well as Islamic and Western influences, since the fifteenth century (Ogbechie). Histories of modern Nigerian art frequently begin with Aina Onabolu (1882-1963), whose illusionistic portraits showed a mastery of European technique to challenge those who claimed African artists could not work in these mediums. In 1927 Onabolu invited British art teacher Kenneth Murray to Nigeria to develop art education in the country. Their practice as art educators was markedly different, Onabolu emphasised the formal concerns of the European tradition, whilst Murray encouraged students to reflect Nigerian ‘traditional’ values, Benedict Chukwukadibia (Ben) Enwonwu — arguably the most well-known Nigerian modern artist — was a student of Murray. These opposing educational influences laid the foundation for the onward articulations of cultural forms from Nigerian indigenous cultures in art during African modernism.

14The arts scene flourished in Nigeria during the late 1950s and early 1960s, centered around colleges and universities (Falola & Heaton 162). Two main schools of artistic expression emerged: the Zaria School based in the Nigerian College of Arts, Science and Technology (NCAST) and the Osogbo school under the tutelage of Susanne Wenger and Ulli Beier. In 1958, students at NCAST set up the ‘Zaria Art Society’, with the goal to create artworks with national identity, which they described as ‘Natural Synthesis’. The dawn of Nigerian independence involved artists in the dialectics of nationalism and the search for an individual and collective identity.

15This Nigerian art history is embedded in the Lagos Biennial, physically and conceptually. The neglected structure of Independence House retained original decorative features from the modernist artistic movement within Nigeria at the time of its construction (1960). Two large scale bas-relief sculptures by Benin-trained sculptor, Felix Idubor (1960) flanked the sides of the building (Fig. 3 and Fig. 4) and a large-scale mosaic by Yusuf Grillo (1961) — in a state of disrepair — decorated the wall of the outdoor, open plan ground floor lobby area where the Biennial had situated a temporary café area (Fig. 5). Both artists were important figures in the artworld at the dawn of independence and have shaped the Nigerian art scene into the present, reminding the visitor that creative visual art production in Lagos is the continuation of a long history of artistic practice emanating from Nigeria. These artworks spoke of Lagos as an historic centre for artistic creation and critique, connected locally and globally through expansive art networks reaching back over time. The disintegration of these modernist artworks contributed to the identity of a biennial which amplified postcolonial readings of contemporary art and prompted the visitor to consider modernism’s links with imperialism. Their materiality challenged modernism as a politicised story of invention and origin at the ‘centre’, destabilising historicist models of art history which posit the invention of modernism as a European achievement (Okeke-Agulu; Hassan; Harris (ed)). I found myself meditating on Nigerian modernism, not as the construction of an ‘alternative modernity’ which continually emphasises the primacy of the West, but as a movement with its own force, responding to its own location and circumstance. That this prompts a rethinking of the archive and cartography of modernism may well have been the intention of the curatorial team.

16This setting, and the contemporary artworks contained within, reminded the visitor that Lagos has always been an ‘art centre’ of creative production, overcoming the challenges of colonisation, civil war and decades of political instability. Globally connected artistic creation, submersion, circulation and penetration has occurred over history and globalisation of the modern-day art world is the result of a deep historical process of shifting centres and intercultural traffic (Mbembe; Curtin). Lagos Biennial 2019 offered the visitor access to the depth of these historical and contemporary processes, through the architecture of the building and the artworks on display, which mediate the history of Nigeria in the present day. The Biennial creates a juxtaposition between the modernist works embedded in the fabric of the building and the newly commissioned and existing artworks by Lagos-based or international artists inside the exhibition, but I felt that both prompted similar questions at the intersection of art, architecture, environmentalism, urbanism and the postcolonial condition.

Fig. 3 The Felix Idubor bas-relief at Independence House, October 2019. Photograph by the author

Fig. 4 Photograph from 1960 showing the construction of the bas-relief, ‘New Art of Africa: Cement sculpture bas-relief by Felix Idubor, decorates the side facade of the new 25-story Independence House, In Lagos, Nigeria’ (1960). Photograph by Evelyne Bernheim

© Marc and Evelyne Bernheim

Fig. 5 Lagos Biennial café bar situated in the foyer of Independence House, with Yusuf Grillo mosaic (1961) on back wall, October 2019. Courtesy of the artist and Lagos Biennial. Photograph by the author

  • 16 In addition to newspaper clippings and historical images of Broad Street and Independence House sou (...)
  • 17 From artists biography text. Lagos Biennial 2019.
  • 18 Plants growing out of repurposed Good Mama detergent powder (a popular detergent brand imported fro (...)

17The Biennial exhibition, like most such events, favoured new or recently made work such as video installations, new media and research-based, archival, and ‘social practice’ work. Reflective of the challenges of life in Lagos, often the technology or electricity supply had failed and video installations were not powered up. Some spaces in the exhibition were light and airy, some artworks bright and dynamic, but other areas were dark, cold and concealing. This created a tension around what was seen, what was hidden and what was understood. Nigerian artist Ndidi Dike’s large-scale, multi-media, floor-based installation, A History of a City in a Box (2019), evoked that uneasy sense of concealment (Fig. 6 and Fig. 7). It spoke directly to its Lagosian context through Dike’s use of boxes containing civil service documents which were found in the building and had to be immediately locked away.16 Dike stated: “information is one of the greatest currencies in Lagos […] Information is hidden and buried; it is inaccessible to the people, and only permitted to those in power.”17 Rahima Gambo’s A Walk Sculpture, Lagos (2019) mapped an embodied experience of Lagos from its interiors, composed of an assemblage of rubbish collected by the artist on her walks through the city. This challenged the nature of urban space and the power relations of seeing and being seen (Fig. 8).18 You Will Find Playgrounds Among the Palm Trees (2018/19) by Nigerian artist Temitayo Ogunbiyi was presented on an exposed roof top to the side of the main building (Fig. 9). Twisted cast bronze and galvanised steel piping created angular forms held in concrete footings which sat within the paraphernalia of wires, glass skylights, organic roof top detritus and pigeons! These structures were organic and dynamic, through natural movement and caught objects blown in by the wind they were continually changing to remind the viewer of the shifting power dynamics of this Lagosian setting. These three artworks by Nigerian artists demonstrated artistic creation and critique which speaks to, and of, Lagos and Nigeria.

Fig. 6 A History of a City in a Box (2019), by Ndidi Dike, October 2019. Courtesy of the artist and Lagos Biennial. Photograph by the author

Fig 7 A History of a City in a Box (2019), by Ndidi Dike. Installation view. Courtesy of the artist and Lagos Biennial. Photograph by Kola Oshalusi

Fig 8 Rahima Gambo’s A Walk Sculpture, Lagos (2019). Courtesy of the artist and Lagos Biennial. Photograph by the artist

Fig. 9 You will find playgrounds among palm trees (2019), by Temitayo Ogunbiyi. Steel, concrete, twine, and reconstituted metal. Dimensions variable. Courtesy of the artist and Lagos Biennial. Photography by Temitayo Shonibare

18Artwork by international artists also related to Lagosian themes and situations. South African Sabelo Mlangeni’s photographic essay The Royal House of Allure (2019) documented life in a queer safe house in the city, to address concealment within private spaces under the Nigerian state which outlaws homosexuality. The Arthouse Foundation, Lagos runs an international artist residency programme which aims to encourage the creative development of contemporary art in Nigeria and the artists on the residency programme in 2019 exhibited work at the Biennial. German artist Katrin Winkler was one such artist, her work, Pass It On and She Will Know (2019) presented imagined conversations which explored the 1929 anti-colonial Women’s War in Nigeria (Fig. 10). Thirteen digital photomontages taped directly onto the concrete wall of Independence House were slowly destroyed as running water from the floor above trickled through the works. The artwork and its interplay with the setting reminded the viewer that colonialism altered the position of Nigerian women in society and that forces of change have long-standing repercussions. However, the work also prompted consideration of the ways in which people resist power, to demonstrate that agency and autonomy are fundamental to all humans as they shape their lives and futures individually and collectively.

Fig. 10 Pass It On and She Will Know (2019) by Katrin Winkler, October 2019. Courtesy of the artist and Lagos Biennial. Photograph by the author

19Once again responding to the location, Swiss artist Dominique Koch’s installation, Training Our Mind to Go Visiting (2019) was displayed over the open vista from a second-floor terrace towards Remembrance Arcade and Tafawa Balewa Square (Fig. 11). The neon sign read: Teeming spaces and troubled vision make good fiction for thinking, a comment on American biologist and feminist Donna Haraway’s belief in life as symbiosis, co-dependency between species, and the notion of individuality. Mapped onto the hustle and bustle of the central Lagos business district below, this poignant comment inferred a privileged vantage point metaphorically and physically. Here the global folded into the local once again, as the very infrastructure of Lagos and the fabric of the building were intertwined with the artwork.

Fig. 11 Training Our Mind to Go Visiting (2019), by Dominique Koch, October 2019. Courtesy of the artist and Lagos Biennial. Photograph by the author

  • 19 Nigerian artists: Ndidi Dike, Rahima Gambo, HTL African, Taiwo Jacob, Favour Jonathan, MOE+ Art Arc (...)
  • 20 The latest ONS data (1 July 2016 to 30 June 2017) estimates 190,000 individuals that were born in N (...)
  • 21 Yoruba dress for women.
  • 22 Head-ties worn by Nigerian women.

20Around half of the contemporary artists on display at the Biennial were Nigerian, and in keeping with the artistic director’s vision of the biennial as a two-way form of cultural exchange, the rest were Nigerian diaspora and artists from other locations.19 Many of the artists exhibiting at the Biennial were internationally mobile social actors who may have accessed funding for travel and living expenses through residences or artist programmes in their home countries. This international dialogue reflected the Biennial’s goal of supporting African creatives in collaborative work within international diaspora circuits. Lagos, and conceptually Africa, were centred within this international framework. Nigerian diaspora artists connected Lagos and the UK,20 British-Nigerian brother and sister Tolu and Ade Coker presented Masqueraded Memoirs (2019), a personal, multi-part project of photographs, film, and large-scale tapestries inspired by the photo and video archives of their late father, designer and artist Kayode Coker. The work engaged residents of a social housing community in London to highlight how changing social landscapes have influenced notions of identity. This theme was echoed in the work of another British-Nigerian artist, Adeyemi Michael, whose monumental multi-media installation Entitled (2019) reimagined his mother's migration to the UK. On horseback through the streets of London dressed in Ìró and Bùbá21, the mother reflected (in Yoruba) on her British-Nigerian identity. Thirty-two geles22 were elevated on plinths, to mimic the high-rise form of Independence House, the movement from one cityscape to another and the number of years she had spent in the UK. Another British-Nigerian artist, Karl Ohiri, destabilised notions of power and agency with his video installation Rolling Footage (2019), filmed from the vantage point of a disabled man as he propelled himself through Lagos on a self-made skateboard. The video highlighted his day-to-day struggles and triumphs, drawing attention to wealth disparities and disability in a society without social support.

21Through these art works the Biennial presented ideas of shifting histories and the artists realities of hybridity, expressing what it meant to be a global citizen working in Lagos at that specific time and in that specific context. All of the artists, whether from abroad or nearby, were enveloped into the fabric of Lagos as their creative output folded and blended into the setting. Through the diverse artworks the Biennial exhibition coalesced the particularity of local rhythms, the generation of local ideas, and the development of local standards in the conception and production of art and artistic forms — to centre Lagos as a place of artistic construction and artistic critique. The artwork by British-Nigerian artists highlighted a counter cultural agency which framed Africa as a place of destination and also of return, a circularity which is often missing from diasporic or migrant discourses. The mobility and itineracy of the artists gathered at the Biennial reflected individuals ‘living across cultures’ rather than ‘caught between cultures’, in doing so, it strongly affirmed the intertwining of local, national, regional and international identities — positioning Lagos as a cultural hub of strengthened artistic unity across the international cultural map.

3.2 ART X Lagos: expanding the platform

22In contrast to the Biennial, ART X is a commercial venture and the artwork exhibited for sale by the galleries was therefore more conservative than the new media or installation work found in experimental exhibition settings. In the most part the galleries presented relatively formal painting or sculpture, with a focus on portraiture. Peju Alatise’s large scale installation The Other Side of the Coin, Born Not to Suffer (Arthouse Contemporary) brought a more conceptual dynamic and was a talking point within the exhibition space (Fig. 12 and Fig. 13). ART X also ran a special project element of the fair programme — which suggested an attempt to expose visitors to alternative forms of art production. The commercial remit of the art fair was expanded by: live performance art curated by Wura-Natasha Ogunji; a video art experience by Emeka Ogboh, Lagos: 20Hz – 20kHz with accompanying curated sound experience, This is Lagos; an audio guide to disseminate information about the artworks in the exhibition; an augmented reality section; an interactive space; a virtual reality experience; a large scale live music event to celebrate Nigerian popular music (ART X Live!); and a section of the fair dedicated to celebrating the pioneers of African art history (ART X Modern).

  • 23 Sponsored by Stanbic IBTC Pension Managers.

23ART X Modern aimed to “articulate Nigerian artistic identity and art heritage.”23 Sculpture and painting by Nigerian innovators such as Yusuf Grillo (whose mural was found on the wall at Independence House see Fig. 5) and Uche Okeke, as well as modernists from other African countries such as Professor Ablade Glover from Ghana, demonstrated the visual languages developed to articulate African cultural representation within the matrix of modern art, and the historical reach of Lagos as an important global visual art centre. Okeke-Agulu (2015) has traced the early- and mid-twentieth century artistic, intellectual, and critical networks which created what he terms ‘postcolonial modernism’ in Nigeria. He demonstrates that the work of the postcolonial modernists was deeply connected with local artistic traditions and the stylistic sophistication associated with twentieth-century modernist practices. Young Nigerian artists were inspired by the rhetoric and ideologies of decolonisation, nationalism, negritude and pan-African ideals and values. Okeke-Agulu purports that the translation of the experiences of decolonisation into a distinctive postcolonial modernist art tradition continues to inform the work of Nigerian artists today. This connection between the contemporary art on sale at the fair and the substantial art history of Nigeria was demonstrated by ART X as the fair situated present-day activity within an extended genealogy of art production in the region. Like the Lagos Biennial, this makes a direct challenge to Euro-American presentations of modernity. Sanyal notes: “African art in global [Western] art spaces is either accepted on the hosts’ terms or superficially included to assimilate artists into the Western modernist heritage, so that the narrative of modernism, as a fundamentally Western accomplishment, is skilfully repackaged as global” (Sanyal 4). I suggest that ART X refuses this notion, forming a complex cosmopolitan space in which contemporary art from Africa can be validated, displayed and debated within and against an art historical context which turns away from the Western art canon.

Fig. 12 The Other Side of the Coin, Born Not to Suffer, by Peju Alatise, October 2019. Courtesy of the artist and ART X Lagos. Photograph by the author

Fig. 13 The Other Side of the Coin, Born Not to Suffer, by Peju Alatise. Installation view. Courtesy of the artist and ART X Lagos. Photograph by ART X Lagos 2019

4. Artistic training, pedagogy and knowledge production

24Ephemeral forms of curation such as the art fair and biennial are temporary, but both ART X and Lagos Biennial run special projects which extend the reach of the exhibition and engage in artistic training and pedagogical activity which impacts the art community and individual artists in positive ways. The wider platforms of Àkéte art foundation (Lagos Biennial) and ART X Collective (ART X Lagos) maintain a core staff who work year-round to plan, prepare and maintain initiatives such as the Biennial’s intensive curatorial programme and the ART X artist prize. These activities develop the expertise and skills of creatives in Lagos and encourage forums for debate and critique which respond to calls for creatives to stimulate and maintain knowledge production on the continent.

4.1 Lagos Biennial: curatorial programme

  • 24 SK research notes Lagos October 2019.
  • 25 The programme was supported by Prohelvetia Johannesburg, with additional finance from the Swiss Age (...)
  • 26 https://www.lagos-Biennial.org/curatorial-intensive/ (accessed 23/01/2020).
  • 27 Further critique of Àsìkò Art School as a pan-African training programme is offered in my forthcomi (...)

25In his opening address Oliver Enwonwu described Lagos Biennial as a place to exercise critical thought and produce alternative reality — a pluralistic space for dialogue and debate.24 This was achieved in the exhibition space, but also through the Biennial’s intensive curatorial programme which took place in Lagos in October/November 2019. The programme was shaped to continue the work of the late Olabisi Obafunke (Bisi) Silva and her roaming pan-African training programme Àsìkò Art School which provided training opportunities on the continent for African and diaspora practitioners. Emerging curators from across the world were invited to apply to the 2019 programme, with successful individuals required only to fund their flights and accommodation.25 Headed by Chief Facilitator N’Goné Fall, the week-long programme was designed to provide basic technical and theoretical knowledge in the field of curating and offer first-hand advice from arts professionals to help participants create an on-going or future project. The programme aimed to strengthen Africa’s position in the global art world, while keeping African narratives and viewpoints central: “facilitat[ing] new approaches in assessing knowledge and approaching topics, situations, and linguistics critical to African narratives and perspectives [...] re-assessing popular terminologies and trends which are used to situate Africa in the global art discourse [my emphasis].”26 This Africa-focused artistic training provided a unique opportunity for international artists to engage with a high profile Africa-centred educational programme and is a crucial part of infrastructure development on the continent.27

4.2 ART X Lagos: ART X prize

  • 28 The prize is sponsored by Access Bank, in partnership with the British Council & Gasworks, London — (...)
  • 29 In 2019 self-taught documentary photographer Etinosa Yvonne from Benin City took the prize with a s (...)
  • 30 Around £2700 or $3600 (exchange rate 11/2021).

26ART X make an intervention in artistic training through the ART X Prize for emerging Nigerian artists: “In the absence of infrastructure that exists in other international centres for contemporary art, the prize was launched to contribute to the burgeoning contemporary art sector in Nigeria.”28 The 2019 jury was comprised of acclaimed postcolonial diaspora artists and arts practitioners who have achieved an international reputation for achievement in the art world: Yinka Shonibare CBE; Sokari Douglas Camp CBE; Ibrahim Mahama; Wura-Natasha Ogunji; Emeka Ogboh; Zina Saro-Wiwa and Professor Bruce Onobrakpeya.29 The choice of these individuals reveals an ongoing strength of network connection between London/Lagos and an astute capitalisation on the achievements of the Nigerian diaspora. Although the ART X Prize winner receives a sum of N1,500,00030 and the opportunity to present their artwork at the art fair, recognition from high-profile art world practitioners and a three-month residency with non-profit visual art organisation Gasworks in London is perhaps of greatest value to their career. The ART X prize winner receives exposure and amplification through mentoring and support as they navigate the international circuits of contemporary African art. Winning the prize magnifies the opportunities for one artist, although all the nominees are offered the chance to present their work at the prestigious location of the art fair where they experience exposure to the art going public, gallerists and art collectors — as well as attention from the high profile jury members — which strengthens their connections within art world networks.

27Although the Lagos Biennial and ART X are very different events, they are demonstrative of a highly connected Lagosian art world characterised by collective creative endeavour. As example: an experimental 2019 Lagos Biennial pre-show event took place at Yinka Shonibare’s Guest Projects Space in East London; Temitayo Ogunbiyi and Tokini Peterside of ART X are two of the foundation directors for Shonibare’s artist residency space in Lagos; Ogunbiyi, a practicing artist, had an installation on display at Lagos Biennial and mediated the talk programme at ART X 2019; ART X is a sponsor of the Biennial and hosted a discussion on ‘How to Build a Lagoon with Just a Bottle of Wine?’ between Antawan Byrd, co-curator of the Biennial, and Abraham Oghobase; Emeka Ogboh was part of this talk programme and provided the installation art project for ART X 2019; Oyindamola Fakeye, Biennial co-curator, founded and directs Video Art Network with Emeka Ogboh and trained at Centre for Contemporary Art under Bisi Silva; Silva was instrumental in the creation of ART X with Tokini Peterside. The connections could go on! Art historian Terry Smith suggests that in most cities the Biennial is anchored by the main art historical survey museum, or the museum of contemporary art (Smith 7). Lagos lacks these platforms and ART X could be understood to function as this ‘anchor’. Alongside the absence of strong local institutional infrastructure, the ART X prize itself and the constitution of its jury demonstrate that social relations are not embedded only locally, but are instead transnational or transurban, often between Lagos and London. This is what makes the development of this infrastructure building so unique.

4.3 Turning art market attention to Lagos

  • 31 In September 2019 Tate Modern London announced that it had appointed African art specialist Osei Bo (...)

28ART X and Lagos Biennial 2019 attracted art delegations from prominent art institutions in the West, keen to pursue an international collecting policy and increase their legitimacy by gathering knowledge about art production outside of their own milieu. In attendance were representatives from the Tate Modern (UK), Zeitz Mocca (South Africa), Smithsonian (USA) and Centre Pompidou (France). Whilst in Lagos these visitors made studio calls to artists and visited Lagosian art institutions.31 This is certainly advantageous for all in the art sector, but Peterside states that international attention is not her primary effort: “We have a laser focus in pursuing our own mandate […] I didn’t do it [the fair] because I wanted thousands of international collectors to fly in and buy African art. No. My first area of focus was converting affluent Nigerians, and ensuring they become supporters and patrons of the city’s artists” (Seymour). She explains that “by expanding the number of collectors, [she] want[s] to create an infrastructure for artists to work” (Seymour), as building a solid collector base within Nigeria will stimulate the contemporary art market and ensure its longevity. That ART X, and the cultural programme in October which features events such as Lagos Biennial, draws these institutions to the city is evidence of a paradigm shift, an art market realignment towards Nigeria.

  • 32 Due to the global pandemic of COVID-19 this auction will now be held online.

29This is further evidenced by the operational shift of the African modern and contemporary art departments of the leading auction houses in London. The London-based directors of both Bonhams’ and Sotheby’s African art departments were present at ART X 2019, even though Bonhams has a dedicated Nigeria-based representative. In 2018 Bonhams began to live stream their London-based auction sales of modern and contemporary African art at the Wheatbaker hotel in Lagos. Whilst Nigerian collectors had always been able to bid via the telephone in the London sales, this move allowed them to participate locally in the performativity of the auction process. In the inaugural sale, Ben Enwonwu’s painting, Tutu sold for £1.2m and the work was displayed at ART X a few months later, when the two institutions formed a partnership. Following this lead, in 2020 Sotheby’s launched the catalogue for their own newly initiated African modern and contemporary London sale at Lagos’s private members club LH Privé.32 The launch was hosted by Oliver Enwonwu and the Ben Enwonwu Foundation, further indication of network support and collaboration. These interventions demonstrate a shift in the continued problematic which troubles the African art market — namely that African art sells outside of the continent to Western collectors — towards building the collector base and tapping into the financial wealth in Nigeria and across the continent.

5. Conclusion

30ART X Lagos and Lagos Biennial are more significant than mere temporary visual art events, they form platforms which facilitate cultural exchange with other platforms located locally, nationally, regionally and internationally. These are connected by networks of people, objects and ideas which span Africa, Europe, America and beyond. Enacted at a regional centre, both art events become spaces where local and international artworlds fold into one another and overcome unequal distributions of power within the art world — as curators and art practitioners both local and from abroad become involved with creative production, often collaboratively, in Lagos. This kind of network building, in and from Lagos, is a form of institution building that differs from Western models centred around museums, gallery institutions, schools and arts funding. The article has demonstrated alternative ways of institution or infrastructure building in Lagos, that exist on a more horizontal, individual and relational level.

31The paper has demonstrated the ways in which ART X and Lagos Biennial facilitate infrastructural development in Lagos by institution building in a city which lacks institutional space. Empirical evidence has demonstrated that both events, in very diverse settings, present contemporary visual art through exhibition making to raise the profile of art production from Africa. Both events make space in their programme for critique and democratic dialogue that can relate local experiences to global processes, thereby advancing discourse and the production of knowledge on the continent. These events form spaces which allow artists to support and lift one another, find mentors, seek out support and collaboratively engage with the international art market. They also make deliberate interventions in the development of artistic training, enhanced through well-established and ever evolving networks which span continents. Although Lagos/London network connections are of mutual benefit to arts practitioners in both locations, the focus of ART X, Lagos Biennial and the creative practitioners associated with these two organisations, is developing Lagos, Nigeria and Africa to illuminate and amplify art production on the continent and challenge the domination of hegemonic Euro-American ‘art capitals’. I conclude that the work done by ART X and Lagos Biennial encourages the art market and the art world more broadly to consider perspectives and values from Lagos; attributing agency to cultural producers as artists, narrators, critics. Event making for both institutions provides insight into the art trajectories of Lagos and is part of reclaiming the art history of Nigeria and Africa.

32Artsy Editors. “The 15 Most Influential Art World Cities.” Artsy 15/12/2015 [Online]. Available: https://www.artsy.net/​article/​artsy-editorial-contemporary-art-s-most-influential-cities [Accessed 20/11/2020]

33Blaser, Thomas. “Africa and the future: An interview with Achille Mbembe.” Africa is a Country, 11/20/2013 [Online]. Available: https://africasacountry.com/​2013/​11/​africa-and-the-future-an-interview-with-achille-mbembe/​ [Accessed 23/05/2020].

34Castellote, Jess and Tobenna Okwuosa. “Lagos Art World: The Emergence of an Artistic Hub on the Global Art Periphery. ” African Studies Review 63.1 (2020): 170-196

35Corrigall, Mary. Contemporary African Art Ecology: A Decade of Curating (Art Consultancy Report). Cape Town: Corrigall & Co, 2018.

36Curtin, Philip D. Cross-Cultural Trade in World History. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1984.

37Emina, Seb and Liam Freeman. “Why Lagos Is West Africa’s Capital Of Culture.” Vogue, 31 October 2018 [Online]. Available: https://www.vogue.co.uk/​article/​why-lagos-is-west-africas-capital-of-culture [Accessed 23/05/2020].

38Enwezor, Okwui, and Chika Okeke-Agulu. Contemporary African Art since 1980. London: Damiani, 2009.

39Falola, Toyin and Matthew M Heaton. History of Nigeria. New York: Cambridge UP, 2008.

40Gardner, Anthony and Charles Green. Biennials, Triennials, and Documenta: The Exhibitions That Created Contemporary Art. Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons, 2016.

41Harris, Jonathan. Globalization and Contemporary Art. Malden, M.A: John Wiley & Sons, 2011.

42Hassan, Salah M. “African Modernism: Beyond Alternative Modernities Discourse.” South Atlantic Quarterly, 109.3 (2010): 451-473.

43Komu, Riyas, D’souza, Robert E. and Sunil Manghani. “The Biennale was not the issue’: an interview with Riyas Komu.” India’s Biennale Effect: A Politics of Contemporary Art, edited by Robert E. D’Souza and Sunil Manghani. London: Routledge 2017, pp. 76-96.

44LaDuke, Betty. Africa: Women’s Art, Women’s Lives. Lawrenceville. New Jersey: Africa World Press, 1997.

45Marchart, Oliver. “The globalization of art and the ‘Biennials of Resistance’: a history of the biennials from the periphery.” World Art, 4 (2014): 263-276.

46Mazrui, Ali A. “Shifting African identities: The boundaries of ethnicity and religion in Africa’s experience.” Shifting African identities, Vol. 2: Identity, Politics, History, edited by Simon Bekker, Martine Dodds and Meshack M. Xhosa. Cape Town: HSRC Press, pp. 153-175.

47Mbembe, Achille. “Ways of Seeing: Beyond the New Nativism. An Introduction.” African Studies Review, 44. 2 (2001): 1-14.

48Mbembe, Achille. “Afropolitanism.” Africa Remix: Contemporary Art of a Continent, edited by Simon Njami. Johannesburg: Jacana Media, 2007, pp. 26-30.

49Nyabola, Nanjala. Digital Democracy, Analogue Politics: How the Internet Era is Transforming Politics in Kenya. London: Zed Books Ltd., 2018.

50Ogbechie, Sylvester O. Ben Enwonwu: the Making of an African Modernist. Rochester: U of Rochester P, 2008.

51Okeke-Agulu, Chika. Postcolonial Modernism: Art and Decolonization in Twentieth-Century Nigeria. Durham, N.N.: Duke UP, 2015.

52Proctor, Rebecca Anne. “The Second Lagos Biennial Takes Over a Former Government Building to Imagine What Would Happen If Artists Were in Charge of Our Future.” artnet news, 8/11/2019 [Online]. Available: https://news.artnet.com/​exhibitions/​the-second-lagos-biennial-1699158. [Accessed 23/05/2020]

53Sanyal, Sunanda K. “‘Global’: A View from the Margin.” African Arts, 48. 1 (2015): 1-4.

54Seror, Céline. “Tayo Ogunbiyi & ART X Lagos: Art in Life, Life through Art.” The Art Momentum, 17/11/2019 [Online]. Available: https://theartmomentum.com/​tayo-ogunbiyi/​ [Accessed 13/03/2020].

55Seymour, Tom. “Art X Lagos ‘pursues own mandate’ as fair doubles in size.” The Art Newspaper, 4/11/2019 [Online]. Available: https://www.theartnewspaper.com/​review/​art-x-lagos-pursues-own-mandate-as-fair-doubles-in-size [Accessed 23/05/2020]

56Smith, Terry. “Biennials: four fundamentals, many variations.” Biennial Foundation Magazine, 7/12/2016.

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Notes

1 The traditional art centers of New York, London and Paris are now joined by Hong Kong, Singapore and Beijing as the places where art market value is created (Artsy).

2 As example, commercial events such as 1-54 Art Fair (Morocco), Johannesburg Art Fair (South Africa) and a developing biennial system of events, such as Dak’Art (Senegal) — “the first truly African biennial” to focus on art produced on the continent. Recent institution building on the continent also includes the 2017 opening of Zeitz Museum of Contemporary African Art (MOCAA) (South Africa) which forms the world’s largest exhibition of contemporary African art in a continent-based gallery, and the 2018 Museum of African Contemporary Art Al Maaden (MACAAL) (Morocco), a dedicated museum for contemporary art focusing on artists from Africa and the diaspora.

3 ART X Talks: We Are Our Own Sun, Cultivating An Art Ecosystem. The line references a quote by Ousmane Sembene: ‘We are not alone in the world, but we are our own sun. I do not define myself relative to Europe. In the darkest of darkness, if the other does not see me, I do see myself. And surely do I shine!’ (Cannes speech 2006).

4 Further critique of ART X and Lagos Biennial is offered in my forthcoming doctoral dissertation.

5 Peterside studied law at the London School of Economics and began her own collection of African art at the age of twenty-three after returning to Lagos from London.

6 https://artxcollective.com/ (accessed 27/04/2021).

7 Prior to 2019 the art fair was held at the Civic Centre, Victoria Island.

8 Adire are indigo-dyed cotton cloths using a resist-dying technique to create striking patterns in blue and white. They were traditionally made and worn by women throughout the Yoruba region of south-western Nigeria. Suya is a spicy meat skewer, generally made with beef, ram, or chicken. It is a low cost and accessible street food popular across West Africa.

9 In 2019 guests Bolaji Balogun (CEO Chapel Hill Denham); Herbert Onyewumbu Wigwe (CEO Access Bank PLC); Femi Gbajabiamila (Speaker of the House of Representatives); Igwe Nnaemeka Alfred Ugochukwu Achebe (Obi of Onitsha) and Babajide Sanwo-Olu (State Governor) were in attendance.

10 https://www.Biennialfoundation.org/Biennials/lagos-Biennial-nigeria/ (accessed 20/03/2020).

11 With its possible evocation of European wine consumption, the title was criticised as ‘not being African enough’, provoking co-curator Antawan Byrd to call for an ‘imaginative response.’ Although European wines are consumed across Nigeria, palm wine is also widely drunk and preserved in the public imagination through its use in cultural events. Yoruba legends often feature tales of palm wine tapping and consumption (LaDuke 36) and the skills of experienced wine tappers are valued to the present day. Palm wine features in literature such as The Palm-Wine Drinkard (1952) by Amos Tutuola, and in visual arts images such as Nike Davies, Palm Wine Tapper (1985), Twins Seven-Seven, The Palm Wine Tapper (1978) and Asiru Olatunde The Palm Wine Tapper (1990).

12 https://shekereblog.wordpress.com/poetry-in-shekere/akeem-lasisi/ (accessed 04/05/2021).

13 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r9cYMdyPCqk&t=5s (accessed 21/03/2021)

14 Other biennials have successfully utilised this approach, for example the Kochi Biennal in India which is well known for ambitious, site-specific work produced on location, often viewed as one of the reasons for the success of the event (Komu et al.).

15 Other speeches were given by Folakunle Oshun (director) and Tosin Oshinowo (co-curator).

16 In addition to newspaper clippings and historical images of Broad Street and Independence House sourced from the private archives of Tam Fiofori, a pioneering photographer and Nigeria’s most renowned documentary photojournalist and post-colonial era postcards by H.S. Freeman.

17 From artists biography text. Lagos Biennial 2019.

18 Plants growing out of repurposed Good Mama detergent powder (a popular detergent brand imported from China) and Golden Penny Semovita sachets (the leading brand of Semolina in Nigeria), concrete slabs, a rotting pineapple, and lemons are displayed through interconnected copper rings.

19 Nigerian artists: Ndidi Dike, Rahima Gambo, HTL African, Taiwo Jacob, Favour Jonathan, MOE+ Art Architecture, Ezemezue Nneka, Abraham Oghobase, Temitayo Ogunbiyi, Nwandu Somi, Uthman Wahaab, Onyeka Igwe. Artists from other African countries: Jess Atieno (Kenya); Joiner Baingor (Ghana); Harold Hariwe, Sabelo Mlangeni, Karen Stewart and Ed Suter (South Africa); Euridice Kala (Mozambique); Sandra Poulson and Raul Jorge Gourgel, Pedro Pires (Angola). British Nigerian artists: Adeyemi Michael, Dele Adeyemo, Tolu Coker and Ade Coker, Seun Keshiro, Karl Ohiri. European artists: Steeve Bauras, Nicolas Carrier and Marie Ouazzani, Jerome Chazeix (France); Tom Bogaert (Belgium); Alessandra Ferrini (Italy); Dominique Koch (Switzerland); Dane Komijen, Andréas Lang, Katrin Winkler (Germany); Ana Mendes (Portugal); Victoria Samwelevna (Ukraine); Juan Zamora (Spain); Richard Zeiss (Britain/ Austria). Artists from other countries: Raquel Barrios (Mexico); Eman Ali (Oman); Dina Khouri (Jordan); Hiroko Tsuchimoto (Japan).

20 The latest ONS data (1 July 2016 to 30 June 2017) estimates 190,000 individuals that were born in Nigeria live in the UK.

21 Yoruba dress for women.

22 Head-ties worn by Nigerian women.

23 Sponsored by Stanbic IBTC Pension Managers.

24 SK research notes Lagos October 2019.

25 The programme was supported by Prohelvetia Johannesburg, with additional finance from the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, so here the organisation had looked to outside funding through a well-established agency and private sponsorship.

26 https://www.lagos-Biennial.org/curatorial-intensive/ (accessed 23/01/2020).

27 Further critique of Àsìkò Art School as a pan-African training programme is offered in my forthcoming doctoral dissertation.

28 The prize is sponsored by Access Bank, in partnership with the British Council & Gasworks, London — further evidence of Peterside’s ability to gather support and funding from private companies and institutions. https://artxlagos.com/prize/ (accessed 16/04/2021).

29 In 2019 self-taught documentary photographer Etinosa Yvonne from Benin City took the prize with a series of montage portraits depicting survivors of Nigerian terrorism which explore the hidden experiences of post-traumatic stress disorder on Nigerian citizens.

30 Around £2700 or $3600 (exchange rate 11/2021).

31 In September 2019 Tate Modern London announced that it had appointed African art specialist Osei Bonsu, who attended ART X 2019.

32 Due to the global pandemic of COVID-19 this auction will now be held online.

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Table des illustrations

Légende Fig. 1 Alara Lounge, ART X Lagos opening night, October 2019. Photograph by the author
URL http://journals.openedition.org/erea/docannexe/image/12950/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 412k
Légende Fig. 2 Independence House, setting for the Lagos Biennial, October 2019. Photograph by the author
URL http://journals.openedition.org/erea/docannexe/image/12950/img-2.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 624k
Légende Fig. 3 The Felix Idubor bas-relief at Independence House, October 2019. Photograph by the author
URL http://journals.openedition.org/erea/docannexe/image/12950/img-3.png
Fichier image/png, 947k
Légende Fig. 4 Photograph from 1960 showing the construction of the bas-relief, ‘New Art of Africa: Cement sculpture bas-relief by Felix Idubor, decorates the side facade of the new 25-story Independence House, In Lagos, Nigeria’ (1960). Photograph by Evelyne Bernheim
Crédits © Marc and Evelyne Bernheim
URL http://journals.openedition.org/erea/docannexe/image/12950/img-4.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 120k
Légende Fig. 5 Lagos Biennial café bar situated in the foyer of Independence House, with Yusuf Grillo mosaic (1961) on back wall, October 2019. Courtesy of the artist and Lagos Biennial. Photograph by the author
URL http://journals.openedition.org/erea/docannexe/image/12950/img-5.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 144k
Légende Fig. 6 A History of a City in a Box (2019), by Ndidi Dike, October 2019. Courtesy of the artist and Lagos Biennial. Photograph by the author
URL http://journals.openedition.org/erea/docannexe/image/12950/img-6.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 204k
Légende Fig 7 A History of a City in a Box (2019), by Ndidi Dike. Installation view. Courtesy of the artist and Lagos Biennial. Photograph by Kola Oshalusi
URL http://journals.openedition.org/erea/docannexe/image/12950/img-7.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 396k
Légende Fig 8 Rahima Gambo’s A Walk Sculpture, Lagos (2019). Courtesy of the artist and Lagos Biennial. Photograph by the artist
URL http://journals.openedition.org/erea/docannexe/image/12950/img-8.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 616k
Légende Fig. 9 You will find playgrounds among palm trees (2019), by Temitayo Ogunbiyi. Steel, concrete, twine, and reconstituted metal. Dimensions variable. Courtesy of the artist and Lagos Biennial. Photography by Temitayo Shonibare
URL http://journals.openedition.org/erea/docannexe/image/12950/img-9.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 1,4M
Légende Fig. 10 Pass It On and She Will Know (2019) by Katrin Winkler, October 2019. Courtesy of the artist and Lagos Biennial. Photograph by the author
URL http://journals.openedition.org/erea/docannexe/image/12950/img-10.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 216k
Légende Fig. 11 Training Our Mind to Go Visiting (2019), by Dominique Koch, October 2019. Courtesy of the artist and Lagos Biennial. Photograph by the author
URL http://journals.openedition.org/erea/docannexe/image/12950/img-11.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 196k
Légende Fig. 12 The Other Side of the Coin, Born Not to Suffer, by Peju Alatise, October 2019. Courtesy of the artist and ART X Lagos. Photograph by the author
URL http://journals.openedition.org/erea/docannexe/image/12950/img-12.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 324k
Légende Fig. 13 The Other Side of the Coin, Born Not to Suffer, by Peju Alatise. Installation view. Courtesy of the artist and ART X Lagos. Photograph by ART X Lagos 2019
URL http://journals.openedition.org/erea/docannexe/image/12950/img-13.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 682k
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Référence électronique

Stacey KENNEDY, « Building global art infrastructure from Nigeria: ART X Lagos and Lagos Biennial 2019
“We Are Our Own Sun” »
E-rea [En ligne], 19.1 | 2021, mis en ligne le 15 décembre 2021, consulté le 26 janvier 2022. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/erea/12950 ; DOI : https://doi.org/10.4000/erea.12950

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Auteur

Stacey KENNEDY

University of Birmingham
Stacey Kennedy is a doctoral researcher in African Studies and Anthropology at the University of Birmingham. Her PhD research investigates female agency and art networks within the Nigerian contemporary art world. She is interested in questions of gender in relation to collections of art from Africa in the UK.

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