A look at some artists to watch this year
While the year 2020 was unprecedented in all aspects because of the huge impact of the coronavirus pandemic, 2021, the immediate past year, was equally unprecedented for the art world because of the lingering pandemic, its sustained impact and slow recovery of global economies, which also impacted art business in Nigeria.
However, there was a seeming respite in 2021 with many artists unleashing unique works from their studios and even online spaces.
This year, the artists are hopefully going to do more in terms of exhibitions, studio projects, commissioned works, collaborations and auction presence.
Some of these artists, who are going to make a difference in the Nigerian art business in 2022, in no particular order, include:
Chika Idu is an artist to truly watch this year. The Delta State-born painter was instrumental in the creation of Defactori Studios, which today has become an art movement among Nigeria’s new generation artists. He also created Nigeria’s first Water Colour Society of Artists (SABLES). Idu has been a part of numerous group exhibitions and has had many solo exhibitions, across many galleries in Nigeria.
Idu’s works are characterised by a heavy texture and hazy rendition technique, which he calls ‘light against visual distortion’. Chika’s works are inspired by everyday life. For the past 18 years, he has been committed to exposing the plight of the African child through his work. Recently he began an environmental campaign on the health risks faced by children living in coastal slums. Besides teaching art at the French School Lycee Louis Pasteur, Idu works in his studio in Lagos.
He has lots to show and is willing to exhibit more of the coastal slums work this year at partner galleries, especially Wheatbaker, Sachs Gallery and Temple Muse, all in Lagos.
If you visit the Legend Hotel Curio Collection by Hilton at Murtala Mohammed Airport, Lagos, great artworks courtesy of the Edo State-born painter welcome you into an awaiting leisure.
To say the least, Ehikhamenor is globally renowned. He led the team of three contemporary artists that represented Nigeria at Venice Art Biennale in Italy in 2017, Nigeria’s debut at the 122-year old biennale. Emboldened with the exposure and networking at the biennale, the artist is set for more creative works now and in the future.
So, follow the artist to see sheer creativity, especially breathtaking installations induced by the 2020 lockdown, after the lockdown in 2021 and more.
Chukwuma is a celebrated visual artist with an enthusiastic local and international following. He is among artists to watch this year. He is top artist for Gallery 1957, a contemporary art gallery located in Accra, Ghana.
You need to see the University of Nigeria Nsukka Art School trained artist unleash his bold works made from multitude of found objects and representation of an unforgettable visual language, in which he uses African symbols and patterns in refreshing new ways.
He has numerous creative works to his credit. One of them is The Nerve Centre; one of the 19 monuments commissioned by Lagos State government to mark Lagos at 50 celebrations. The enormous installation brought from conception to life by Chukwuma is built to last for decades. Truly, it seems that Lagos slept one night and woke up to this new landmark.
Top among the reasons to see Chukwuma’s works is the fact that the artist, who has participated in more than 20 exhibitions in the last decade in Nigeria, Cameroon, Ghana, France, Denmark, Holland, and the United States, is promising more exhibitions, collaborations and engagements this year.
On your visit to his exhibitions this year, you will discover why his works (combination of textures, lines, symbols and colours laid out on painstakingly etched wooden panels) have become collectors and art auctions favourites.
If you want to appreciate the female folks who are in the creative industry, Peju Alatise should be among the top 5. Alatise, a sculptor, exhibits rare creative ingenuity in her works. She was among the three artists that represented Nigeria at Venice Art Biennale in Italy in 2017. You need to see her works because Alatise has gone beyond mere sculpture to exerting some level of socio-cultural influence with her work and even personality.
You need to meet her this year because of her multiple talents. She is a sculptor, mixed-medium artist, a poet and a published writer, whose interdisciplinary work has garnered attention on the global art stage. She was selected as the 2016 fellow at the Smithsonian Institute of African Art and was 2017 recipient of the highly coveted FNB Art Prize, a prize that made her join the ranks of previous winners such as; Nolan Oswald Dennis, Turiya Magadlela, Portia Zvavahera and Kudzanai Chiurai.
Before the 2019 elections, she reengaged her passion about addressing social, political and gender-related issues as her primary subject matter, through artistic works that also capture the joy and pain of womanhood in modern-life-African traditions.
This year, she is promising more enthralling works and offering them in exhibitions, private and institutional collections around the world more than ever before.
Another female artist to watch this year is Queen Nwaneri-Olatunde.
Born in 1993 in Italy, Queen is reputed for her unabashed expressions in which rich texture of colours give vent to her subject, oftentimes in a manner that escapes conventional exactitude.
As a portraitist, she draws her themes from the mood of her subjects (women and children) as she situates them in discourses; also allowing for spatial escape (as opposed to closed finish) this opens up extensive suggestions about her artistic concerns.
She has participated in several group themed exhibitions, her most recent participation at the International art fair, Art X Lagos. She is also represented in North America, by Cuverley LLC, an art management firm based in Atlanta, USA.
Her works are in several private collections in the US, Germany, the Netherlands, Republic of Benin and Nigeria.
As well, Raqib Bashorun who is among the most prominent contemporary artists working in Nigeria today is taking his game to a higher level this year. His career as an artist and teacher is marked by significant exhibitions around the world and the quality of artists defining their spaces on the Lagos arts scene.
Bashorun reconstructs pre-existing materials, reinterprets and ultimately repurposes them as recycled art. The creation of something positive from the inherent negativity of waste, and the reaction of surprise, the materials inevitably drawn from the observer, are the key factors in Bashorun’s art.
The artist, who has participated in 13 solo exhibitions and has been featured in over 26 group shows at home and abroad, is going to open the door to many to see more of his unique works this year. Two years, lovers of visual art were able to trail and even buy some of his works at exhibitions held at Wheatbaker Hotel Ikoyi, Omenka Gallery, Ikoyi Crescent, among other galleries and spaces.
This year, Bashorun is opening his doors wider for more exhibitions, collaborations with both artists and gallery owners and corporates for art sponsorships.
Butler is a self-taught artist with over 30 years of studio practice. The Ghanaian artist, who is based in Lagos Nigeria, is worth following this year.
His works have been exhibited internationally including in Canada, England, France and the United States. He studied medicine and has worked at the cutting edge of auto mechanics, information technology, and furniture design. His impressive painting technique and deeply philosophical approach to life is evident in his surrealist style and subject matter.
You need to see Butler’s works because they show the breadth of his signature surrealist style, celebrating relationships on the personal, family and community level. Butler speaks to the soul and identity of African communities as they draw on ancestral roots within futuristic mindscapes which reference cultural identity and traditions vis-à-vis the need to preserve and conserve the natural world.
This year, he invites his viewers to stop and look below the surface at issues his works throw up, which he references through arid worlds revealing intertwined forms and rich textures, which speak volumes once they are recognized in the shadows.
As well, it will be worth your time to trail Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Nigerian-born visual artist who works in Los Angeles, California, United States of America. She is ‘our own’.
Sales for the Nigerian-born artist have soared from less than $100,000 to more than $3 million since her works started appearing on art auctions. Her high mark was achieved on March 7, 2017 at Christie’s London when her work, “The Beautyful Ones” sold for $3,075,774 (including fees).
The artist is not tired yet, she has works that will surpass her 2017 revenue mark this year.
Of course, there are many other artists who are set to boost the creative offerings in the Nigerian art landscape this year. If you cannot visit museums, exhibitions, auctions and fairs to meet them, you can take to their online platforms to see their works, buy and get them delivered to your desired destination.
Remember artworks now stand for bank collateral, and now is the best time to buy them.