2020 saw the 5th edition of West Africa’s leading international art fair which over the previous 4 years had 30,000 guests witness the best of African contemporary and modern art from 300 artists. With the 2020 transition to a digital platform, the art fair hosted a vast international  audience from 101 countries over eight days from 2nd – 9th December.

For ART X Lagos, 2020 was a year like no other. In the face of COVID-19 ART X Lagos announced West Africa’s first ever digital art fair with the theme ‘Present States; Shared Futures’. Then just as the fair was due to launch the #EndSARS protests took place in Nigeria. In response to this unrest, ART X Lagos launched a support initiative for 100 photographers who worked at the frontlines and put out a call for works documenting the historic civil uprising. A selection of these photographs and videos now form the fair’s special project, New Nigeria Studios, featuring images taken across 17 states in Nigeria.

The online exhibition New Nigeria Studios is a “living archive”, curated across several themed rooms, which muses not only on how the world experienced the protests on social media but also the power these images possess to demand social justice. Adding to the richness of this transformative display was a roundtable discussion at ART X Talks, the fair’s talks series, between established photographers Kelechi Amadi-Obi and Yagazie Emezi on their own storytelling around the protests. The extended exhibition will now run online until the 31st of December, 2020 on ARTXLAGOS.COM.

ART X Talks ran over the course of the art fair and included ’Sir, the evolution has begun’ – a conversation featuring Lemi Ghariokwu, Folarin ‘Falz’ Falana and Opal Tometi, a co-founder of Black Lives Matter, who topped the ArtReview Power 100 list for 2020, and said “When we come together as a community then we are able to work together to materialise what has been in our imagination and stirred up in our mind.” Hank Willis Thomas speaking at the ‘For Freedoms’ talk said “We forget often that without art there is no culture, civilisation and therefore it is the root of our society. Because we think of it often as charity, we have lost connection with the basic element of human experience which is creativity.” ART X Talks also included ‘The Black in Art’ – a talk moderated by Tokini Peterside with collectors Deen Solebo, Lola Ogunnaike, Nish McRee and Freda Isingoma who said “We are so lucky as collectors of African and diasporic art because our culture is evolving in real time and that makes it more dynamic than the [Western] art scene.”  The fair’s newest platform ART X Review presented ‘The Wrap Up’, a conversation for emerging artists with Njideka Akunyili-Crosby, discussing the growth, place and potential of the artist in today’s world. 

For its 2020 edition, ART X Lagos invited audiences to virtually interact with a curated selection of 200 works from leading galleries across Africa and the Diaspora and successfully provided a place for communities around the world to contemplate society’s shared demands and expectations for tomorrow, and to meditate on new ideas for how our global community might move forward together. The ten participating galleries included Bloom Art, Kó (formerly Arthouse – The Space), Nike Art Gallery, Ed Cross Fine Art, Galerie MAM Douala, Nubuke Foundation, LouiSimone Guirandou Gallery, SMO Contemporary Art, Galerie Cécile Fakhoury and Out of Africa Gallery.

This year ART X Live!, the dynamic fusion platform for art and music created by ART X Lagos, presented ‘Like Someone’s Watching’ a performance film starring musicians Oxlade and Tomi Owó, visual artist King Jesse Uranta, and DJ Camron, directed by emerging filmmaker Omowunmi Ogundipe. First premiered on Saturday 5th December, 2020 as part of the ART X Lagos 2020 art fair, ‘Like Someone’s Watching’ features a stellar line up of Nigeria’s exciting emerging creatives, cutting across art, music and fashion. The short film weaves together music video performances, digital animation, artist interviews, and an activist DJ set. Creating in the midst of trauma is at the heart of the film, which was shot during the pivotal week of the End SARS protests, with ’Like Someone’s Watching’ probing both the burden and the privilege of being an artist. Oxlade said, “I was creating at the hardest point of my life this year, in fear… but the love for art and music kept me going.” The performing artist Tomi Owó added, “We have a duty to seek change. We must take the human spirit and show the world what we’re feeling and hope it does the work it needs to do.” ART X Live! is available to view on Youtube until the 31st of December, 2020

Founder and Director of ART X Lagos, and CEO of ART X Collective, Tokini Peterside said: In this challenging and difficult year in which a global pandemic has ravaged Nigeria’s economy, and a political movement has altered confidence in our nation state; the artists and galleries, musicians and performers that took part in ART X Lagos 2020 have shown above and beyond the power of art to inspire, to build and to create community and hope. Our belief remains that the future is bright for Africa and its creative talent, and we are thankful to our community for joining us to make this a reality in 2020”.

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