A sprawling megacity of over 30 million people, Lagos Lagos is a major African financial center and is the economic hub of Lagos State and Nigeria at large. The city has been described as the cultural, financial, and entertainment capital of Africa, and is a significant influence on commerce, entertainment, education, politics, tourism, arts, and fashion.
It is no wonder that such a vibrant city attracts individuals from all works of life becoming a boiling point for all forms of creativity, talent, and the dynamics of human complexities. One of these forms is the Nigerian Art scene which has fought relentlessly to thrive.
Despite suffering a decline due to many factors including poor funding and the sick and twisted corruption of the Nigerian government, Nigeria’s contemporary art scene has gained global recognition, leading to a renewed interest in cultivating and supporting modern and contemporary art in the country.
The sprawling city, despite being one of the world’s most chaotic, has in some ways become an easier place to pursue creative work, with its slowly growing middle class and a growing number of art venues. This status was reinforced with the founding of the ART X Lagos fair in 2016, the first commercial fair of its kind in West Africa. Designed to showcase the best and most innovative contemporary and modern art from the African continent and its Diaspora, it welcomes over 40,000 visitors, which indicates Lagos’ position as a fast-emerging and exciting cultural hub.
This steady rise in recognition for art in Lagos State has led to an influx of investors willing to build an increasingly thriving space for the community. While there is still limited access to opportunities and resources for artists, many have come together to plan their exhibitions, sell their art independently, and use social platforms to give their art an audience.
From spaces showcasing contemporary artworks from a spate of talented artists including, Chigozie Obi, Chidinma Nnoli, Marcellina Akpojotor, Ameh Egwuh, Mary Evans, Dennis Osadebe, and more, to eclectic exhibitions staged by artists such as Ayanfe Olarinde, Yusuff Aina, and Ayobami Ogungbe and more there’s something for every art lover in Lagos. And many of these galleries and exhibitions are free to enter.
Check out some of the major art galleries in Lagos, Nigeria:
Nike Art Gallery
A five-floor ultra-modern art gallery/center at Lekki, Lagos, Nike Art Gallery represents over 500 artists and has over 20000 artworks on display, created by predominantly Nigerian-born artists. Established in 2009 by artist and designer Nike Davies Okundaye, the gallery’s mission is to provide and sustain an environment for the growth of art in Africa. The gallery is famous for its Adire, Batik, and indigo artworks on fabric, which are also Okundaye’s art mediums.
Nike Art Gallery also has three other branches in Abuja, Oshogbo, and Ogidi. For those who want to learn more about Nigerian art culture, the gallery also hosts classes on traditional practices such as indigo dying, sculpting, painting, quilting, African drumming, and dancing.
Art Twenty One
Located at the Eko Hotel & Suites in Victoria Island, Art Twenty One is a space and platform dedicated to contemporary art, aimed at solidifying the growing art scene in Lagos. Spanning 600 square meters, the space is designed to make art accessible to a large and growing audience.
Art Twenty One presents and promotes international contemporary art, as well as catalyzes contemporary art projects and the interaction of local and international cultural players. It also provides support to local and regional contemporary artists, helping them grow and giving them the tools to position themselves in the local, regional, and international art spheres.
African Arts Foundation (AAF)
Located in the upscale Victoria Island neighborhood, African Artists Foundation (AAF) is one of the most popular galleries in Lagos. Formed as a non-profit in 2007, AAF is dedicated to providing Nigerian and international artists with a creative platform. The gallery periodically hosts artist residencies and exhibitions for emerging African artists including Ayanfe Olarinde, David Palacios, Johnson Ocheja, Isshaq Ismail, and many others. In addition to its exhibitions and workshops, AAF organizes two flagship projects annually – the Lagos Photo Festival, and the National Art Competition – furthering its mission to be a conduit for a new generation of artists.
Kò Art Space
kó was launched by Kavita Chellaram, an art collector and founder of Arthouse Contemporary in Lagos. Dedicated to promoting art and encouraging creativity, kó has a dual focus on championing Lagos’ leading artists from the modern period such as Ben Enwonwu and Bruce Onobrakpeya, and celebrating emerging and established contemporary artists across Africa and the diaspora, including Peju Alatise, Edozie Anedu, Stephen Tayo and more. Despite its small size, kó is one of the most exciting galleries in Lagos, with a distinctive art deco interior. Its spacious open plan and broad windows provide a calm and serene environment for visitors to peruse its extensive collection of contemporary
Yemisi Shyllon Museum of Art (YSMA)
YSMA is a privately owned art museum founded by Prince Yemisi Shyllon, who is one of the most comprehensive and diverse art collectors in Lagos. The museum is home to more than 1000 artworks from his collection, featuring work from talented artists including familiar names like Ben Enwonwu and Yusuf Grillo, as well as newer names like Kelani Abass. Found inside Pan-Atlantic University, the museum has become an educational and informative source for art teachers, collectors, and lovers alike.
Affinity Art Gallery
Affinity Art Gallery is dedicated to promoting African artists to an international audience. Since its opening in 2020, the gallery has focused on bringing the works of emerging and mid-career artists to the fore, and in recent times, has also begun providing a public education program for schools across the country. The gallery is home to exciting works from some of the youngest and brightest in Lagos, including Donna Duke, Chiagozie Obi, and Adaeze Okaro. Currently, Affinity is staging a group exhibition called Desire Lines, featuring four emerging artists from Nigeria and South Africa – the culmination of the first emerging artists open call issued by the gallery at the beginning of 2022.
Omenka was founded in 2003 by Nigerian artist and curator Oliver Enwonwu, the son of Ben Enwonwu (1917-1994), one of Nigeria’s leading 20th-century modernists. Housed in Enwonwu’s former home, Omenka Gallery offers a uniquely personal way of experiencing the late artist’s work. Aside from showing one of the most comprehensive collections of Enwonwu’s work, the gallery exhibits a fine curation of emerging and established artists in diverse media, including Abass Kelani, Cedric Nunn, Dominique Zinkpè, Ima Mfon, and Nnenna Okore. As such, Omenka makes for an excellent introduction to Nigerian 20th-century and contemporary art.
Rele Art Gallery
Founded to act as a critical interface between the African and international art worlds, Rele Gallery is a dynamic contemporary art gallery with 2 locations between Lagos, Nigeria, and Los Angeles, USA. Established in 2015, the gallery is focused on promoting a larger appreciation, followership, and engagement of art from Africa, making it accessible to both a local and global audience. They represent and exhibit a fine selection of emerging and established artists working across diverse media in Africa and the diaspora. Artists whose works have been exhibited by Rele include creative photographers Rachael Seidu and Ayobami Ogungbe, and other visual artists like Ameh Egwuh, Chidinma Nnoli, and futuristic-themed painter, Kenny Maro.
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