Art X Lagos
“We’ve invited ALARA to design the VIP Lounge at ART X Lagos for the past three years, as ALARA’s take on interior design from the contemporary African perspective is truly special.”
Indeed this year visitors were treated to an homage to the ancient craft of Adiire fabric making, which echoed the in-store exhibition by Peju Layiwola. Regionally sourced furniture and throws completed the indigo infused look with raffia centrepieces and sculptures that were evocative of masquerade adorning the walls. Consistently putting a spotlight on African culture was central to the collaboration as Peterside expands:
“Over the years, through the lounge ALARA has celebrated Touareg culture, Yoruba culture and more, enchanting ART X Lagos’ audience of art collectors and enthusiasts from across the world, with a unique fusion of African luxury, heritage, modernity and style.”
As the fair develops and widens its programme of activities elements that anchor the experience are of increasing importance. New stars of the art world may be born year upon year and the scope of what is considered art might expand, but each year visitors can expect bold and engaging celebrations of what it is to be African via the lens of a contemporary designed space. And with modern design masters from across the continent to call upon as co-creators in the quest for deeper expressions of interior design innovation, the VIP lounge has become a must see in and of itself.
Peju Layiwola is a’ slasher’ of the best kind: a highly regarded Professor of Art and Art History at the University of Lagos, a prolific and internationally acclaimed artist who initially trained in metalwork before exploring and mastering other media, and a princess of the ancient Benin Kingdom, who instead of only focusing on participating in pomp and pageantry, utilises her social status to highlight the importance of maintaining and owning one’s own cultural heritage; most pertinently with her continuing campaign for the return of the Benin Bronzes to Nigeria. With such a broad and deep understanding of the importance of art both as a tool for social change and and a means of understanding self and others, It was inevitable that this multi-talented dynamo would hold her exhibition, Indigo Reimagined at Alara, a concept store that since opening has championed thought-provoking creative projects, that act as a window for Africa to the world.
The exhibition coincided with the Lagos Creative Season; a time that marks a convergence between disciplines. Over the course of a month Art X Lagos, Lagos Photo and the Lagos Biennial, as well as two fashion events Lagos Fashion Week and GTB Fashion Weekend and the annual film festival AFRIFF are launched, transforming the city into a crucible for artistic excellence.
The exhibition took as its starting point the ancient practise of making Adiire fabric, a process that is centuries old but has recently been popularised for a new generation by contemporary fashion designers embracing it in their collections. During a fireside chat between Layiwola and Alara Founder and CEO Reni Folawiyo, Layiwola was emphatic about the fabric being the star and the focus of attendees’ attention: “The work begins with indigo and ends with indigo…we’re paying homage to those who have pushed forward this tradition [and] celebrating fabric as a form of identity”. The immersive experience which featured double height Adiire murals hung to create a moving fabric sculpture highlighted the intricacy of the craft and how it is synonymous with Yoruba culture and aesthetics. Folawiyo also noted the importance of embracing our art history noting that the exhibition “illustrates what we had was beautiful”.
Place, as well as one’s sense of self in a location was also touched upon with Layiwola referencing the great poet J.P. Clark’s poem, “Ibadan’, which alludes to the city’s seven hills resembling ‘broken china in the sun’ which in turn is often blue and white in hue. Gender politics are also expressed via the fact that Layiwola has chosen to create pieces in indigo, when the process of making the fabric was traditionally in the male domain. The overall impression was that in the ‘re-imagining’ of an ancient craft Layiwola was expanding notions of participation in art itself. As Folawiyo succinctly put it in closing “Peju’s exhibition highlights her own versatility and also the depth, range and scope of what we could generally see as the art of making indigo.” An exhibition that occurred at an important crossroads for contemporary art in Africa, it will be long referenced.
“The work begins with indigo and ends with indigo…”
There was an exhibition of Oluwamuyiwa Adeyemi’s work named Down The Rabbit Hole at ALÁRA. The private viewing was attended by art lovers and other artists who were there to celebrate the work of the photographer and filmmaker also known as “Logor.” His view on the city of Lagos led to the selection of this body of work which he debuted in the ALÁRA Emerging Artists’ series.
“ALÁRA Art exhibited a conceptual installation of light and photography tagged Down The Rabbit Hole which fetured excerpts from his widely acclaimed ‘Monochrome Lagos’ and other works”
Stevenson at ALÁRA
A big part of Stevenson Gallery’s responsibility is to present work by its artists internationally. To this end, it has participated in art fairs like Frieze (London), Art Basel and Art Basel Miami Beach. Since 2016, it has also participated in Art X Lagos — the result of an engagement with Nigeria that started with research for “Take your road and travel along”, an exhibition and catalogue of pioneering modern painters that included Nigerian artists Ben Enwonwu, Yusuf Grillo, Uzo Egonu and Akinola Lasekan, alongside their other African counterparts.
The collaboration with ALARA began as a conversation between Faridah Folawiyo and Joost Bosland from Stevenson, as a way to showcase how both brands combine worldly cosmopolitan orientation with firm local roots.
For the exhibition they decided on sculpture from Meschac Gaba, videos by Kemang Wa Lehulere and Robin Rhode, drawings by Barthélémy Toguo, Viviane Sassen and Dada Khanyisa; photographs by Zanele Muholi; paintings by Portia Zvavahera, Deborah Poynton and Ian Grose; as well as work from young Lagos artist Yadichinma Ukoha-Kalu as a special guest.
9 Weeks More, a new volume of artist interviews launched at the Joburg Art Fair was also available along with a few of the gallery’s publications.