Premier art fair for the best and the new in Africa
ARTS | DOMINIC MUWANGUZI | The premier International Art Fair, Art X Lagos, is in its fourth season this year and is offering wider-ranging packages of interest; including a series of curated projects, art talks and live events intended for a diverse audience of art collectors, art connoisseurs, art critics and artists. The event is also a platform for both established and emerging artists on the continent and its Diaspora to showcase their latest innovation. As such, major galleries and museums across the African continent exhibit the best in their collection to tap into the growing market for modern and contemporary art from Africa.
An array of exhibitors (art galleries and museums) – from the perennial 18 to now 26 – will occupy the booths at the festival. These will include Arthouse – The Space (Nigeria), Goodman Gallery (South Africa) and Galerie Voss (Germany).
Notably, East Africa will be represented by Afriart Gallery (Kampala) and Circle Art Gallery (Nairobi). This representation is symbolic of the growing interest and value in art from the East African region since the launch of the Circle Art Auction in 2013. The art sale has since elicited continental and international attention for the artists that have featured in it including, Geoffrey Mukasa and Peter Kamwathi.
In the 2019 edition of Art X Lagos festival, Uganda’s seasoned artist Henry Mzili Mujunga- represented by Circle Art Gallery- will display his latest series of work in a wider context of African Identity. Mzili is largely inspired by the concept of indige
nous expressionism where the artist adopts traditional artifacts or practices and values in their art to produce authentic and relevant art. The artist this year featured in the London 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair to underline his studio maturity and growing prominence globally.
To represent a new breed of emerging artists, Afriart presents Andrew Arim (Uganda) at the fair. Since 2018, Arim with his debut solo show, `A Portrait of Power, Control and Authority’, has caused raptures in the local and international art fora. His latest production builds on the success of the previous series where the artist still emphasises technical competence and studio dexterity (mystery and suspense) in his hyper realistic paintings. This showcase in new talent is replicated in the Johannesburg Art Fair ( 2018 & 2019) where artists like J.B Sekubulwa, Adonias Ocom and Sungi Mlegeya ((Afriart Gallery)have made outstanding appearances.
The dichotomy of the established and budding artists in one space enables a showcase of a diversity of technique, subject matter and concept embodied within larger framework of innovation. In this, the Fair ceases to be a platform for only selling the best artworks or showcasing the best of the time, but a potential platform to critique art from the continent and its Diaspora. The benefit from such appraisal is that artists and respectful art managers acquire varied knowledge in art production and presentation, subsequently growing the local art market.
East Africa’s visibility at such international forums is still limited but it is worth celebrating this small victory for the featured artists and galleries. This penetration into the very competitive art market will subsequently grow the local art scene and provide the needed global attention for the artists. It is unlike in the past where such participation was almost impossible.
Art X Lagos takes place from 1st November- 03 November 2019 at the Civic Centre, in Victoria Island, Lagos.