Nigerians in traditional costumes perform during the Irewha Hunt Festival in the city of Shafa Abakpa, Toto Local Government Area of ââNasarawa state, Nigeria on December 26, 2016. Photo: IC
Nigeria’s elite sipped champagne at a fair in Lagos this week and splashed thousands of dollars on contemporary paintings, an early step into the international art world for Africa’s most populous nation.
Around 30 art galleries from all over the African continent – but also from Paris, London and Barcelona – presented their best pieces at the ArtX trade fair in front of big players from cinema, fashion and finance.
“Nigeria’s art collectors are not known anywhere in the world, and when we got here we didn’t see the potential,” said Lea Perier Loko of the Paris gallery Septieme.
“If collectors fall for something, don’t hesitate to spend money!” The first pieces sold were two gigantic blue paintings by Kenyan artist Kaloki Nyamai that “depict a part of history that cannot be found in books”.
The two paintings, each 2 square meters, sold separately for $ 20,000.
âIt’s much more difficult to sell paintings of this size in Paris. It really shows the difference in scale with Lagos, âsaid Perier Loko.
Oil-rich Nigeria has some of the richest people in the world among its 210 million people. Bankers and traders are now becoming important collectors of contemporary art.
Nigeria’s art scene has long been known for looking inward and buying colorful, local figurative art for its collectors. “Things have changed a lot,” said Delphine Lopez of one of the continent’s most famous galleries, Cecile Fakhoury.
Your gallery has decided to rely on three Ivorian artists and two more from Benin for their stand. The visitors remain fascinated by a tapestry made of raffia, which is sprinkled with shells and string and was created by the Franco-Ivorian Marie-Claire Messouma Manlanbien.
“West Africa has an ancient culture of textile arts and tapestries, and yet it is different from what you find here in Nigeria,” said Lopez.
ArtX founder Tokini? Peterside launched the project in 2016 to open up collectors in Nigeria to other markets and to bring international galleries into the country.
“I wanted the world to understand the city the way I did and see it for what it really is … a very dynamic place with incredible, passionate, brave, energetic people,” said Alt.
And she hopes the fair can also “counter the alternative, more negative image that is normally used to portray Lagos and Nigeria”.
Africa’s most populous country is known as the home of Boko Haram, one of the most violent jihadist groups in the world.
Its dynamic creative industries, miles from the Northeast Uprising, are often less well known. “When we announced that we were coming to ArtX in Lagos, some people asked us why, if there was an art scene in Nigeria and if it wasn’t too dangerous,” said Perier Loko of the Septieme Gallery.
But many of the country’s artists, singers and designers are powerhouses on the continent and around the world.
For those who took the trip it was a winning bet to come to Lagos and many hope to return and explore the Nigerian art market further.