The whole vibe of the ART X Lagos art fair from the get-go was simple and cool: host a lively event to celebrate and showcase the uniqueness of African contemporary art and its diaspora.
Before the beginning of its eighth edition, which will be held from November 2–5 in West Africa, we asked five pointed questions to the stellar all-female ART X Lagos team—Tokini Peterside Schwebig, Melody Fayomi, Kofo Olunloyo, Feran Sonuga, and Oyinda Bankole— to uncover the accomplishments and transformative impacts the fair has etched into the contemporary art scene, shedding light on its distinctiveness and dedication to diversity and inclusivity.
1. First-timer’s guide to ART X Lagos in two sentences –
ART X Lagos is where you can dive into the vibrant world of contemporary art from Africa and its diaspora. It’s an immersive experience, blending art, culture, history, music, and connections with incredible people, all in one dynamic place.
2. Since kickstarting in 2016, ART X Lagos has been making serious waves. What accomplishments has the fair achieved, and what changes has it brought to contemporary art from Africa and its diaspora?
We have been around for eight fantastic years, and we are proud to say that ART X Lagos, since its inception in 2016, has grown into a global phenomenon. We’re thrilled to have hosted galleries and artists from over 40 countries. We’ve showcased over 400 leading artists from across Africa, including programming with world-renowned names like El Anatsui, Wangechi Mutu, Njideka Akunyili-Crosby, Yinka Shonibare CBE, and Hank Willis Thomas.
We have solidified our position as a cornerstone in the African art sector. Our journey began with the aim of creating a dynamic platform to celebrate and bolster the diversity of contemporary art from Africa and its diaspora. As the pioneer of the first international art fair in West Africa, we have gone above and beyond the conventional definition of an art fair, offering several days of immersive art experiences.
3. What’s the secret sauce that makes ART X Lagos stand out from the typical ‘old-school’ art fairs? Spill the tea on what gives it that unique cultural vibe!
While we believe in keeping some secrets, we’ll share a little! What sets us apart is our commitment to constant reinvention. As mentioned, ART X Lagos goes beyond being just an art fair; we aim to provide a fresh and unique experience every year. Our team’s attention to detail and the incredible creative minds we have make all the difference.
4. ART X Lagos is all about letting various voices shine. How do they keep it real and ensure they’re bringing in a mixtape of artists representing different perspectives and flavors?
We’re all about diversity and showcasing the rich tapestry of contemporary African art. Artist proposals submitted by galleries play a pivotal role in this. Our dedicated selection committee evaluates these proposals, ensuring that they reflect the diversity within our art scene. Where our curated projects are concerned, our curators search far and wide each year, for exceptional artists of diverse backgrounds to make up our roster.
5. We’re all about girl power! Could you list five female artists who are owning the scene and leaving a trail of artistic fire from Africa and its diaspora?
Absolutely! These are five female artists who are setting the art world alight. Women like Joy Labinjo, Thenjiwe Niki Nkosi, Emma Prempeh, Nengi Omuku and last but not least Virginia Chihota. These remarkable artists are adding their unique voices to the vibrant narrative of contemporary art from Africa and its diaspora, and we’re proud to celebrate them.
Interview by Arianna Ambrosetti