A recap of ART X Lagos 2022 - Bubblegum Club

A recap of ART X Lagos 2022

The seventh edition of West Africa’s premier international art fair, Art X Lagos came together from the 4th to the 6th of November 2022 at the Federal Palace Hotel in Lagos, Nigeria. The fair attracted the art community from far and wide including artists, curators, collectors and the curious to experience a spectacle of artistic stimulation.

This year’s theme “Who Will Gather Under The Baobab Tree” represented the reconvening of the world in its birthplace, following millennia of erasure, but has however remained resilient, quite like the sustainably developing and long-living Baobab Tree.

The events began on the morning of the 4th with a private auction to select international collectors who were itching to get their hands on the pieces on show. This carried on into the afternoon, and dozens of satisfied collectors later, the fair took a break to prepare for the official opening that evening.

Art X Lagos

Ablade Glover, Jubilation, 2015

As the sun came down, the Lagos art scene lit up, and hundreds of people trooped into a labyrinth of aesthetic splendour. The hall was set up to accommodate collections of 27 different galleries from across the world, with each booth uniquely set up as a specific experience for those who enter. Gallerists and artists were on the ground to walk through everyone who entered their space and fostered an interactive environment all around.  

Some of the gallerists spoke with me about the importance of the fair bringing them together, and its impact reaching wider than only art spaces, especially considering this year’s theme that signified unity and coming home. Gazelle Guirandou of the LouiSimone Guirandou gallery in Abidjan, exhibited the works of Professor Abiade Glover, Ange Dakouo & Pedro Pires. She spoke with me about their works and her gallery’s particular composition of them for the fair.

“I thought it was interesting because you see we are in Art X which is in Lagos, which is Anglophone, and I wanted to bring Lusophone artists and also Francophone artists, because for me I also believe that art shouldn’t have any limits, especially with us Africans to be circulating easily on the continent, and then abroad.”

Art X Lagos

Victor Ehikhamenor, Ulin-Nóifo, A Lineage that Never Ends 

The opening night of the fair was punctuated by a potpourri of visual, aural and olfactory sensations. Victor Ehikhamenor’s booth, curated by Bayo Hassan Bello, transported me into a time capsule of the Benin Kingdom, through larger than life portraits of Benin monarchs constructed solely by rosary beads. The space was coated with sound works of traditional chants that made the exhibit even more immersive, as well as bronze sculptures at the entrance.

Wunika Mukan, founder of the Pacer’s Gallery in Lagos, a gallery that champions bright and emerging talent in contemporary art, spoke about Art X Lagos’ significance in relation to local artists.  

“All of the artists that we showed except for one are all local artists who have quite strong local collector bases, so being at home, on home turf, with your collectors, with young artists who are being received very well, it’s a no brainer to participate in the fair. So, home is always very good to us, and it’s a place that we want to continue to nurture.“

Dada Khanyisa, ‘Type yethu’, 2022 & Zander Blom, Untitled, 2022

Samuel Tete-Katchan, Secrets, 2022

The night gradually concluded with an open bar and exquisite finger foods flying around for the delight of all. The founder of Art X, Tokini Peterside-Schwebig closed the night off with an appreciative speech for all in attendance and everyone who came together to make the seventh edition of the fair a reality.

Saturday, the 5th of November started on a high note as more members of the general public came to see the works on display. A sip and paint session and various panel discussions were held at intermissions, drawing from the fair’s theme ‘Who Will Gather Under the Baobab Tree?’ by contemplating the past to imagine new possibilities for the future. Speakers included James Barnor, Wanuri Kahiu, Linda Dounia, Yagazie Emezi, Tobi Onabolu, Wale Lawal, and more key stakeholders with compelling interests in Africa and its diaspora.

Much later in the day, after a different multitude of Art X Lagos attendees made their rounds across the hall, Saturday’s viewing session came to a close, and the crowd shuffled into a pack of hundreds of individuals of interest in Lagos’ art and culture scenes for the immersive Art X Live! showcase.

Image sourced from ART X Lagos

Morgan Mahape, Sobabile, 2021

Art X Live! curates digital art with music, and takes place during the ART X Lagos fair each year, and has become a staple in Lagos’ music and culture calendar. Some of its alumni include musicians, Oxlade, Amaarae, Odunsi the Engine, and visual artists, Williams Chechet, Fadekemi Ogunsanya, King Jesse Uranta, etc. This year’s edition featured musicians and visual artists from Nigeria, South Africa and England: Obongjayar, DBN Gogo, YKB, Winny, Daberechi and Fahd Bello.

Art X Live! aims to be a catalyst for Africa’s dynamic young creators, and bolstered by a partnership with Spotify, the objective this year was to celebrate the triumphs of the art their ancestors created, and consider ways to bring their learnings into the present, through sampling, interpolation, direct references, and collage, amongst others.

The crowd was warmed up with a set by burgeoning Nigerian DJ Uncle Bubu, which leaned on into the visual art shows by Daberechi and Fahd Bello. Bello presented a surreal 2D animation about a boy who discovers a traditional mask that takes him on a spiritual journey to find himself, in a piece that considerably references Adire, the historic Southwestern Nigeria Indigo-dyed textile.

Nana Opoku, Hu M’ani So Ma Me, 2020

Winny, an Afro-Reggae singer from Benue, Nigeria, serenaded the crowd with her unique vocal texture in a memorable performance by a relatively new artist. DBN Gogo took hold of the decks and elevated spirits with a set signature to her, and YKB’s entrance was gleefully welcomed by front-row fans chanting requests, some of whom he eventually invited to share the stage with him through four songs.

The night culminated in an electrifying performance by Obongjayar, who charismatically carried each member of the crowd along his set with ease. His scintillating interaction with the stage and audience, came with energy, sweat, and calls & responses from the crowd, taking the room on an effervescent journey for a limited time. The art of Obongjayar’s performance can hold up as amazing anywhere in the world. The music continued well into the morning, and it turned from performances to a party for those locked in for the entirety of the Art X Live! experience.

The final day, Sunday the 5th, mirrored Saturday in terms of the foot traffic but the distinctness of the crowd on each day stood out. The fair closed on Sunday evening, leaving behind a shockwave of positive impact on the art scene in West Africa, for the many involved, and the many more looking to be involved in the future. Art X is establishing itself as a crucial destination in the global art calendar, and I’ll definitely have my eyes out for what the fair has in store next year.

Mónica de Miranda, Whales Whispers, 2020

Vincent Michéa, The return of the girlfriends #6, 2021

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