Conversations. Music. Technology. Art. The Balmoral Center in Victoria Island, Lagos, was bustling with excitement as the annual Art X Lagos returned to town. For one week, The Center fills with people mulling over the meaning of different paintings, speaking with their respective artists and then nodding their heads in response to whatever the artists say. How often is one afforded the chance to discuss a piece with its originator?
Created in 2016 and founded by Tokini Peterside-Schwebig, the art fair showcases the work of African and diasporan artists while creating opportunities for the art scene to thrive.
There are interactive sessions that allow you to watch videos while penning down your thoughts for an imagined country. Visitors can sit in a space designed to look just like their grandpa’s house in a remote Nigerian village, immediately transporting them to their childhood, the hope being that remembering life as a kid inspires them to rethink structures that define life in Nigeria. Beyond the visual experience of Art X, creators took their work one step further by writing short stories connected to their art. The stories were not descriptions of the pieces, but rather examples of how literature and art inspire each other.
Every corner of the art fair is filled with something for art lovers and non-art lovers alike including everything from graffiti to interactive sessions but everywhere I turn, people talk about the paintings and the designs. This is what the Art X Lagos fair creates: a place to marvel at the work of talented African/Diasporan artists, taking in the brilliance they created.
In 2022, the arts, entertainment and recreation sector accounted for 0.21 percent of Nigeria’s GDP, with a report showing that Nigeria was at the forefront of the African art market, estimated to be around $13 billion — an amount largely bolstered by the global art market.
As more artists find international prominence and digital art continues to create more access to art on the continent, art fairs like Art X Lagos remain a space to celebrate emerging artists with the Art X Prize.
For Dafe Oboro, the Nigerian winner of the 2022 Prize, winning influenced the way the artist approaches the work. Oboro who had an exhibition alongside Belinda Kazeem-Kamiński, the 2022 African/Diasporan, self-titled Odafe, says: “I had to revisit and bring back my younger self and all the things I used to be so good at, including coloring and stitching. It has impacted the way I create.”
With a $10,000 grant and a Gasworks residency in London, Oboro was given the chance to push the boundaries of creativity with real support. “I think it’s an amazing opportunity when an emerging artist is selected for the prize, not just to get funding to create work, but to have a community to give you that push to do the work, and also a platform to exhibit.”
As the years go by, Art X Lagos continues to be home to several artists and has been described as “the premiere fair in West Africa.” Its impact on the continental art scene is vital, according to Oboro. “When I came back to Nigeria, it was like another event a friend invited me to. But going there and seeing all the art was great. I had never seen so much art in one place,” the artist tells STATEMENT. “I think they’re playing a really important role in the art scene, not just in Nigeria, but in West Africa as a whole. And I am incredibly proud to be part of this year’s fair.”