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Six years later, Access Bank, Art X creative union thrives

Amid factors that threaten to hinder the ease of hosting impactful events in Nigeria, the Art X Collective and its sponsors have continued to work together, channelling all necessary resources to ensure it delivers on its promise to provide an aspirational ground for all of Africa and its diaspora to unite for the appreciation of African artists and their projects.

This journey began in 2016 when Tokini Peterside, CEO of Art X Collective, curated the Art X Lagos fair with the vision to showcase the most innovative contemporary art from the African continent and Diaspora. Since Access Bank is a strong proponent of the Nigerian art scene, passionate about helping Africans tell the African story through creative and innovative ways, the creative union of both parties became inevitable.

With full support from Access Bank as a sponsor, the Art X Collective hosted the first edition of the fair, deepening Nigeria’s connection to the contemporary art scene in Africa and the rest of the world.

They would go on to host West Africa’s premier international art fair bringing in visitors from all over Africa. As of 2020, over 344 artists have exhibited their works, 41,000 people have attended the fair and 3.6 billion people have been reached.

Ever since, Art X Lagos has successfully shone the spotlight on the visual arts and contributed immensely to the increasing visibility of African artists, creating a strong, vibrant art market and positioning Lagos as a cultural capital on the continent. Every year, the fair draws local patrons and a host of international collectors, curators, and critics annually. This year at the just-concluded fair, there were 30 galleries and 110 artists, all from 25 countries.

In addition to the fair, the Art X Collective, which builds platforms and businesses to empower Africa’s creative talent, also has other platforms including the Art X Live! and the Access Bank Art X Prize.

Through this prize, the bank and the Art X Collective work towards the goal of ensuring that creative works from Africa can sit side by side with their foreign contemporaries

The Art X Live! is a fusion of live music and visual art that provides a platform for expression and experimentation to Africa’s dynamic young creators. The Access Bank Art X Prize is the leading prize for emerging artists in Nigeria, created to bolster the efforts of emerging artists who have demonstrated a commitment to careers as professional visual artists.

The Art X Lagos fair, through its partnership with Access Bank, has now evolved to become the largest art, culture and lifestyle fair in West Africa. The fair continues to unite communities, reaffirming Access Bank’s position that Art is a unifier, bridging the gap between Nigeria, other African countries and the world.

In all these, Peterside recognises the role played by the fair’s community of partners. For her, Art X Lagos is a collective effort, with many individuals and organisations that stand together with the fair to ensure that every year, there is a successful outing. She speaks of the bank’s consistent, rich and impactful partnership with the fair as ‘testament to the fact that there is support from Nigeria, from Nigerian organisations,’ on the opening night of Art X Lagos 2021.

Creative prize as a catalyst for growth

The Art X Prize was launched by Art X Lagos, in partnership with Access Bank, to contribute to the continued growth of the visual art sector in Nigeria. In the absence of infrastructure that exists in other international centres for contemporary art, the prize was launched to contribute to the growing contemporary art sector in Nigeria.

Every year, hundreds of artists turn in their applications to enter the competition, and after rigorous screening by a jury of credible judges and live presentations of their works, one winner emerges for the grand prize.

So far, the prize has had four winners, 2,000 applications, and 13 artists who have exhibited since inception. In 2019, the prize was renamed the Access Bank Art X Prize. It provides funding, tailored mentoring support, and a residency opportunity at Gasworks, London, to exceptional emerging artists, enabling them to complete ambitious projects that challenge the expectations of local and global audiences.

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The impact of this prize is one that Tokini Peterside takes deep pride in, especially in boosting the growth of Nigeria’s art ecosystem. ‘Championing emerging artists is incredibly important to Art X, and I am so proud of the impact we are having on Nigeria’s art ecosystem through platforms such as the Access Bank Art X Prize,’ Peterside had said via her social media page.

Through this prize, the bank and the Art X Collective work towards the goal of ensuring that creative works from Africa can sit side by side with their foreign contemporaries.

The bank’s journey with Art X Lagos has seen winners emerge for the Access Bank Art X Prize and these winners, empowered with funding and mentorship, continue to soar in their chosen creative journeys.

A look at prizewinners’ journey so far

At the first edition in 2016, Patrick Akpojotor, a young artist, emerged as the winner. Akpojotor is a visual artist working across printmaking, painting and installation art. His works are part of King Mohammed VI of Morocco’s collection.

In 2017, Ian Audfferen, O’Dare Adenuga, Osora Mojekwu and Habeeb Andu made it to the final stage of the competition as Andu, a young artist, clinched the prize. Andu graduated with a degree in painting from Auchi Polytechnic, Edo State, Nigeria. His work is said to be influenced by late artist Ben Osaghae, who had trained him upon graduation.

After winning the prize in 2017, he had his solo exhibition at Art X 2018, and group shows at Being Buhari (Group Show) in 2019, Masters and Contemporaries (Group Show) in 2019, Culture and Tradition: Same Experience, Different Local (Group Show)in 2018, etc; and continues to go from strength to strength.

In 2018, the prize evolved to focus on emerging artists who are known to actively pursue their careers as professional visual artists. Bolatito Aderemi-Ibitola, a multi-disciplinary artist, emerged as the winner.

Following her win, Bolatito has exhibited at Art X 2019, Arebyte Gallery- Powerplay Exhibition in 2020, Art Summit, Nigeria in 2019, Charlie Wote – Street Art Festival, Ghana in 2019. She was recently accepted to the Venice Biennale College of Art after a residency at Palais de Tokyo in Paris.

In 2019, the prize was renamed, the Access Bank Art X Prize. It was won by self-taught documentary photographer Etinosa Yvonne.

Etinosa uses visual storytelling to create awareness and drive conversation around causes that she is passionate about. She has had one of her images featured in TIME’s 100 images of 2020. Her multimedia project, ‘It’s All in my Head’ was also shown at UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) ‘Voices of the Wind’ virtual installation of film, audio and photography.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Etinosa Yvonne’s solo exhibition as 2019 Access Bank Art X Prize winner was paused in 2020. Nonetheless, for its 2020 edition, Art X Lagos invited audiences to virtually interact with 200 works from leading galleries across Africa and the Diaspora, and partake in 13 events.

Etinosa presented her solo exhibition in the 2021 edition of the fair.

At this year’s edition of the competition, multi-dimensional visual artist, Chigozie Obi emerged as the winner. Other finalists were Chukwudi Onwumere, Mobolaji Ogunrosoye, Nyancho NwaNri, and Omoregie Osakpolor.

Obi received a N1.8 million grant towards a solo presentation at Art X Lagos, a three-month residency at Gasworks, London, and mentorship and support. Her works have been featured at the first Affordable Art Fair (2018) held in Ibadan, Nigeria and the Rasheed Gbadamosi Eko Art Expo (2017) in Lagos.

Group exhibitions include Rele in Lekki, Lagos (2018) and The Studio Scout, Omenka Gallery, Lagos (2018). Obi uses oil, watercolour and charcoal to achieve her paintings, which mostly focus on portraits and figures.

Okobi stated that the competition was proof that “good can come out of Nigeria and Africa.”

Peterside also congratulated Obi and noted that “… she deserves all the congratulations and flowers for this remarkable achievement after a highly competitive process featuring Nigeria’s most exceptional emerging talent.”

On what to expect at her solo exhibition next year as Art X Prize winner, she said she would explore and experiment more with a mix of mediums, looking forward to presenting a project that dwells on issues of personal interests and highlights societal issues. “I look forward to using the platform Access Bank and Art X Lagos have given me to create good work that will make people happy, inspire them and (generally) introduce them to my art,” she said.

In addition to supporting Art X Lagos, the bank has continued to offer its continued support to act as a catalyst for the growth and extension of Nigerian arts and culture.

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