Art X Lagos 2021 is Further Proof that African Art is Valuable, Collectible and Thriving

On the global art scene, antique and contemporary Western and Asian works have dominated for the longest time. When African art is recognised, it is usually antique pieces and a few contemporary works that are put on display, leading to the notion that art from the continent is not as profitable as those that originate outside of it. If there is anything that the Art X Lagos 2021 event has proven, it is that this notion is not only false, but it is also fast becoming a false, antique school of thought.

A painting depicting a man holding a phone while a woman works on his hair by Henry Mzili Mujunga
Entanda (2021) by Ugandan painter, Henry Mzili Mujunga at Art X Lagos 2021. Image courtesy of Afriart Gallery
Art X Lagos: A Brief History

When Tokini Peterside started collecting art back in 2008, she came face-to-face with a harsh reality: African artists could not sufficiently compete with their contemporaries from all over the world, not because they were not as talented, but because there was no platform to elevate their work and connect them to the global art scene.

A world of opportunities opened up before her eyes, and Perterside began to ask a series of hard questions.

“How can we, first of all, strengthen the art scene in Lagos, by bringing in Africa’s art scenes here […]? How [can] we bring in the international community and enable people to better understand and connect with what our artists and galleries were doing for so long? How [can] we get everyday men and women inspired by art, excited about art, wanting to engage with artists? How [can] we ensure that corporate Nigerians would support the arts? How [can] we carve out a moment for Lagos from the global arts calendar?”

These questions led to the birth of Art X Lagos, and in 2016, it launched its first-ever show.

Painting by Bunmi Agusto at the Art X Lagos 2021 event
Art from Bunmi Agusto also made an appearance at the event. Ceremony (2020) by Bunmi Agusto courtesy of Dada Gallery
Art X Lagos: Chapter 6

This year’s event is the sixth edition of the art show that started regionally but has gone global, and while there is definitely a large room for growth, it is obvious to everyone that Art X Lagos is on the right path.

For starters, this year’s show is its largest ever, in spite of the fact that the global health challenge forced the organisers to restrict participating galleries to just fifteen at its physical fair: a total number of thirty galleries made an appearance at the event, with the rest showcasing online.

While art from veteran artists like Ghanaian Amoako Boafo dominated the show, quite a number of rising stars also had their work on display and were able to sell them for a rather tidy sum. Prices were in the range of $10,000 and $30,000 and one of the most expensive works sold was a large painting of Friends like Twins (2021) by sought after Ghanaian painter Kwesi Botchway for $60,000. Gallery 1957, which nearly sold out its booth, also presented new works on canvas by Adjei Tawiah, David Doku-Borlabi, Oliver Okolo, Patrick Eugène and Juwon Aderemi in the range of $10,000–$25,000.

The Ultramarine Blue Belt painting by Amoako Boafo
Ultramarine Blue Belt (2021) by Amoako Boafo. Image courtesy of Amoako Boafo via Gallery 1957

Interestingly, major buyers are from the continent, with most being predominantly Nigerian clients. According to Daudi Karungi, owner and founder of Afriart Gallery, “Lagos is the only fair in the world that has an opening with 90 per cent Black people in the audience… Nobody comes to Lagos for discount works. Galleries don’t say ‘we are coming to Africa to sell it cheaper’ here. We sell for the same prices here that we sell at Basel.”

Organisers have also made efforts to introduce a younger generation to the world of African art. School children were invited to participate, while younger art enthusiasts were encouraged to start collecting. “I’ve run into many of my friends at the fair… They are in their thirties and recognize now that art is a way to invest, park and grow your money, and participate in your culture in a way that a lot of people my age haven’t previously done,” says Nigerian-American Reni Somoye.

Tokini Peterside is definitely optimistic: “In 10 years from now, I see us opening up a larger number of collectors… I see us quadrupling the size of the fair. I see us taking our artists into other parts of the world, presenting their work and showing the power of storytelling across Africa. I see us launching new platforms at different stages of their careers.”

Art X Lagos 2021 was live at The Federal Palace Hotel from the 4th to the 7th of November. The exhibition continues online till the 21st of November at

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