Founder Tokini Peterside discusses her vision and plans for
Lagos’ first pan-African art fair

Nigeria has one of the most exciting art scenes in Africa with growing numbers of galleries, festivals and auction, not to mention talent both emerging and established. But Tokini Peterside, cultural entrepreneur and director of TP-Collective, wanted to push things forward. And so her idea for an art fair that would solidify Lagos as a destination for contemporary art in Africa and the rest of the world and bolster the country’s creative economy was born. The debut edition of ART X Lagos this weekend is the culmination of a year’s hard work, which has seen Peterside partnering with artistic director Bisi Silva, founder of the Centre for Contemporary Art, Lagos, to build an art event with a difference. Here Peterside gives Nataal the low-down.

When and how did you first come up with the idea for ART x Lagos?
I have worked for several years as a strategy and marketing consultant for the creative and culture sector in Nigeria. While working with clients to develop businesses such as ALARA and Maki Oh, I realised that the creative sector in Nigeria had a number of critical gaps that needed to be plugged, if we wanted our artists in future to be able to stand shoulder to shoulder with their contemporaries from around the world. As an art lover, I’m fortunate to count a number of artists and gallery owners as friends. I started speaking to them about the challenges they faced in Nigeria and felt the need to play a role in the movement supporting African artists as they sought to build their brands. This led to the idea of a large-scale experience that could engage the local, pan-African and international communities, by bringing them to Lagos each year to see the best art from Nigeria and around the continent. I had attended art fairs such as Frieze, 1:54 and Art Basel Miami in the past, just as an art lover for fun, and then decided that Nigeria – Africa’s second largest art market – needed to have an annual art fair of its own.

What is its ethos and mission?
ART X Lagos was created to bridge the divide that exists between contemporary art and pop culture in Nigeria. We want to place art firmly on the agenda in Nigeria, just as has been done in recent years with music, fashion and film. We want to widen the knowledge and appreciation of contemporary art in Nigeria, across the continent, as well as internationally. ART X Lagos was also created to position Lagos as an emergent cultural capital on the continent.

What makes ART x Lagos a unique offering in Lagos?
Firstly, our fair will see over 60 artists participate, drawn from African countries including Mali, Cameroon, Ghana, South Africa and Zimbabwe. We have invited galleries and art spaces from these countries because of our objective to widen Nigeria’s connection to the contemporary art scene around Africa, and to open up the perspectives of our local collectors and art lovers. Secondly, we are engaging talented emerging artists in Nigeria who are on the fringes of the art establishment here, by providing a platform through which they can be encountered by collectors. Thirdly, we are bringing in other creatives within the culture sector to collaborate with our artists to produce dynamic, experimental installations that have never before been experienced in Nigeria.

What does Bisi Silva bring to ART x Lagos?
Bisi is one of the foremost curators in Nigeria, who has had an extensive career working with the best contemporary artists and art institutions around Africa and the rest of the world. She brings decades of experience to the team and has been very involved in the selection of exhibiting art galleries. She has also curated our six special project exhibitions featuring artists such as J.D ‘Okhai-Ojeikere, Fati Abubakar and Uche Okpa Iroha, and she has developed our talks and educational program which will have a fantastic line-up of experts speaking about a variety of issues pertinent to the advancement of contemporary art in Africa.

Tell us about the gallery and artist line-up.
We have 14 exhibitors at ART X Lagos, comprised of eight art galleries, three art spaces and three independent artists. We’re excited to have exhibitors ranging from the more established Stevenson and Goodman galleries from South Africa, to newer galleries such as Ghana’s Gallery 1957 alongside Nigeria’s Art House - The Space, Bloom Art and SMO Contemporary, plus the country’s oldest art gallery Quintessence. I’m excited to see what these galleries will bring to ART X Lagos as well as the independent artists – Victor Ehikhamenor, Ade Adekola and Obiageli Okigbo. It’s incredible to have a line up that extends from masters such as William Kentridge to emerging stars such as Babajide Olatunji, Bright Ackwerh and Machiavela Nolstnme.

What will be some of the event highlights?
We have a project by VAN Lagos (the Video Art Network) that includes work by Emeka Ogboh and others. We also have an experimental photo studio by Kadara Enyeasi exploring vintage photography. We will have a live art studio in which six artists curated by A Whitespace Creative Agency will draw and paint live at the fair. And we will have four of these artists perform at Intersections curated by Fatherland Media, a live art and sound performance installation featuring some of Nigeria’s fastest-rising musicians – Vector, Simi, Falana, Ikon and Poe. Last but by no means least is our talks program featuring experienced speakers such as El Anatsui, Mark Coetzee from the Zeitz MoCAA and Zoe Whitley from the Tate Modern and the curator N’Goné Fall.

We’re seeing a huge surge of interest in African art internationally. What power does art have to uplift the continent’s future?
Art has incredible potential to uplift the continent’s future. Just look at the hundreds of entries we received to the #ArtXPrize, the competition we ran on social media in partnership with Access Bank. They are testament to the desires of thousands of young people around the continent to create art, and to be acknowledged for their contribution. As Nigeria and its fellow African countries seek to diversify their economies, this raw base of talent presents an untapped opportunity for economic growth. Just think of the £12 billion contributed annually to the UK economy by arts and culture, or the 4 per cent of U.S. GDP that arts and cultural production represents. These numbers from more established regions are staggering, and African countries are only just beginning to scratch the surface.

Tokini Peterside

Art x Lagos is from 4-6 November at The Civic centre, VI, Lagos