A body of work by Tobenna Okwuosa titled “From Historical Facts to Poetic Truths’ at Modern and Contemporary African Art Pavilion of ACDF, Lagos.
Nine years ago, Nigeria’s art landscape had what was widely accepted as unprecedented emergence of new ideas that would later shape events till date. In fact, it was Nigeria’s year of ‘Renaissance’, so some observers argued. Again, the country’s art environment in the outgoing year flooded by art events of fresh waves that may change the face of visual culture in the years ahead.
The year took off with mixed feelings of hope and caution over news that Nigeria was again making an attempt at Venice Art Biennale. And when Nigeria’s debut at the 57th Venice Art Biennale was confirmed, it reflected the refreshing energy of the country’s art. Adenrele Sonariwo, a young and new entrant in art management and entrepreneurship led the curatorial team with assistance from Emmanuel Iduma to the global event. The Nigeria Pavilion, which featured works of Peju Alatise, Victor Ehikhamenor and performance art from Qudus Onikeku, put Nigeria’s absence at Venice to rest after several failed attempts by others in the past.
In the middle of the year, a sharp departure from the traditional art space emerged when Adam&Eve moved art enthusiasts from the regular Lagos/Victoria Island hubs to GRA, Ikeja, for the debut edition of The Content exhibition series, curated by Lekan Onabanjo. Dr. Bruce Onobrakpeya, Kolade Oshinowo, Raqib Bashorun, Sam Ovraiti, Duke Asidere, Lekan Onobanjo, Tola Wewe, Zinno Orara and Fidelis Odogwu showed at The Content. Organised by Mrs. Modupe Ogunlesi-led Adam&Eve, The Content returned in the last quarter of the year with its Harmattan Edition and featured a mixed of masters such as Onobrakpeya, Oshinowo, Onabanjo and other nine mid-career artists like Francis Uduh, Juliet Ezinwa Maja-Pearce, Damola Adepoju, Ibe Ananaba, Olumide Oresegun, Emmanuel Stanley Dudu and Joshua Nmesirionye.
From the One Draw Gallery project themed Centenary Art Challenge for 100 years of Union Bank, anchored by Olusegun Adejumo, to Sterling Bank’s Recyclart, new ideas in national art competition also added to the burgeoning visual culture space of the country, in the same year. Phillips Oluwasegun, Anyanwu Uzoma Samuel and Nnaemezie Asogwa emerged top winners while the Best Student category was picked by Odeyemi Oluwaseun Ezekiel at the grand finale of Centenary Art Challenge national competition.
While the centenary event tasked the 100 shortlisted artists on applying art to reshape their environment in the next 100 years, Recyclart, anchored by Wunika Mukan, redirected attention to the value of art created from non-traditional media or materials.
With what the organisers of Art-X Lagos recorded to be over “9,000 visitors” at the end of the fair’s second edition at Civic Centre, Victoria Island, this year the event, which made its debut in 2016, appeared to have enjoyed an increase in acceptability. However two editions after, the Nigerian art market was still kept in the dark as to Art-X Lagos’ potential to actually sell art – beyond the ‘razzmatazz’ and cosmetic fragrant of pulling crowd for sponsors’ delight.
And as observers were sniffing through the art scene to find out the reason Art-X Lagos’ ‘contemporary’ face and debut-edition director, Bisi Silva was deleted from the second edition, the renowned curator’s name surfaced a few kilometres away. Silva was the curator of another new idea, African Culture and Design Festival (ACDF), which converged the world at the Federal Palace Hotel.
Organised by Titi Ogufere-led Interior Designers Association of Nigeria (IDAN), the event marked the meeting, in Lagos, of International Federation of Interior Architects & Designers (IFI). The event received “over 100 delegates” from across the world, including its president, Sebastiano Raneri and a renowned Ghanaian-born African architect, Sir David Adjaye.
The visit of Hannah O’Leary from one of the world’s leading auction houses, Sotheby’s, to Nigeria, particularly the oldest group of artists, Universal Studios of Art at National Theatre, Iganmu, Lagos, in November, suggested more international interest in the local art market.
As Nigerian National Order of Merit (NNOM) was given to Dr. Onobrakpeya in Abuja, a fresh initiative, Visual Printmakers Association of Nigeria (VPAN), held its maiden edition by adding to the master printmakers’ honour. It was the new association’s group art show, which featured works of over 20 artists, with Onobrakpeya – a life patron – as a guest artist.Titled First Rhythm and shown in December at The Resource Place, Ikeja, Lagos, the exhibition, according to a member, Dr. Kunle Adeyemi, was to celebrate the master printmaker for being the recipient of the 2017 Nigerian National Order of Merit (NNOM).