Art X Lagos- An Artistic Revival
Nigeria’s Tokini Peterside Drives an Artistic Renaissance.
In Lagos Nigeria something of an artistic renaissance is happening. Now its fourth edition, Art X Lagos, West Africa’s first international art festival, is quickly asserting itself as a fixture on West Africa’s artistic scene. The festival is quickly established itself as the go to place for Africa’s most celebrated and emerging artists. The driving force behind the project is Nigerian born and UK trained lawyer Tokini Peterside. Tokini mooted the idea for the festival during an entrepreneurship class that was part of an MBA program which she was undertaking. From being in idea for a class assignment Art X Lagos has become a fully fledged contemporary art fair which attracts art lovers, buyers, and patrons from around the world. By its second edition in 2017 the fair had increased the number of participating countries from 10 in 2016 to 15. It has come to develop a full and comprehensive range of activities including exhibits, talks, panels, interactive events, and live shows. By 2018 Art X Lagos had grown into a fullly-fledged international art festival which brought together international art lovers, artists, professionals and representatives from leading global institutions such as the Smithsonian.
Tokini’s vision for the project became clarified and cemented during a visit to Venice in 2015. While in Venice that year she attended an exhibition which had been put together by a Nigerian curator who had attracted artists from Africa to the event. It immediately became apparent to Tokini that there was a need to create a platform where African and Nigerian artists could be given the visibility which they needed to showcase their work. She also reckoned that there was an emerging class of people in Nigeria who were art lovers and were willing to spend on art.
Thus was born the ground-breaking international contemporary art fair that is attracting the attention of the global international art world. The 2018 festival targeted 18 international art galleries from a range of countries including Kenya, United Kingdom, Spain, Ethiopia, South Africa, and Ghana. One of the highlights of the 2018 edition of Art X Lagos was the famous painting named Tutu by Ben Enwonwu which was painted in the aftermath of Nigeria’s civil and which went missing for about 40 years. Earlier in 2018 the recovered painting was sold at an auction for contemporary African art for $1.6 million in London at Bonham’s. The painting, which is said to be the most expensive Nigerian modernist work to be sold at auction, made its first public appearance after many years at Art X Lagos
Tokini, who comes from outside the artistic establishment, has achieved an impressive feat with the creation of this pioneering platform for African art. She also brings to Art X Lagos a strong commercial focus with prices for some of the pieces fetching upwards of $100,000. However, Art X Lagos is not being positioned as an exclusive event designed to cater to the elite. The festival is marketed to have a broad appeal that seeks to tap middle income art lovers as well. With its string of successes from its first edition, it is clear to see that Art X Lagos is destined for great things. For her part, Tokini seems resolute as she sets out to position Nigeria as Africa’s cultural and artistic hub.