Monday, 14 August 2017

Nigeria is where it's a(r)t... November event (Art x Lagos)

Tokini Peterside is generating a lot of buzz in the art world - and with good reason. She is emerging as a dynamic force in bringing about recognition of West African art to the wider audience - and going about it in a very savvy way.

Tokini Peterside

She is the Creator of Art x Lagos West Africa’s first international contemporary art fair - which should surely be a Lagosian art lover’s dream. It brings together artworks from different artists in Nigeria, West Africa and the rest of the world with the objective to showcase the best and most innovative contemporary art from the African continent and the diaspora and was created in 2016, which went well.

She’s come to London, UK so she can spread the word about Art x Lagos, so we meet at Kaffeine, Great Titchfield Street, and here I see a professional, polished, and accomplished young woman - and why wouldn’t I? She is 31 and as a Strategic Consultant already helped launch Maki Oh - a fashion label worn by the likes of Michelle Obama and Solange Knowles and ALARA - the luxury concept store in Lagos designed by David Adjaye. She also ran the marketing campaign for Half of a Yellow Sun - the film based on Chimamanda Ndidi Adichie’s award-winning novel of the same name, which starred Thandie Newton and Chiwetel Ejiofor.

Sans TĂȘte by Amadou Sanogo, courtesy Galerie Medina - from the 2016 exhibition

Art x Lagos will be taking place at The Civic Centre, Victoria Island Lagos in November 2017 and Tokini told me how it came about: “It came about because I recognised there was a very big gap in Nigeria between the tremendous activity we saw in the arts sector, for solo exhibitions but then locally amongst affluent potential buyers there wasn’t much activity, so we thought it would be good for Nigeria to create a strong nucleus and core for the artists from Nigeria, in the West African region, and around the continent, so we created Art x Lagos to connect the local and international arts scene on the global cultural map.”

I asked Tokini who would be attending, she added: “We have a really broad audience - Art x Lagos is open for three days. The first day is invite only, amongst VIPs etc. On the second and third day we get people from all walks of life attending, free to attend to ensure as many people as possible and from Nigeria and beyond. We have some artists confirmed: Modupeola Fadugba, Alimi Adewale, Portia Zvavahera.” 

The artists Modupeola, Alimi and Portia will all be presented by their galleries SMO Contemporary (Nigeria), Art House The Space (Nigeria) and Stevenson Gallery (South Africa) at the next ART X Lagos art fair.

Back to Tokini, she was born in Otedo, Niger Delta, Nigeria, the family took on the name Peterside from the location of the island in which her grandfather’s great-grandfather was king. Tokini also holds an MBA from INSEAD and a First Class Law degree from LSE, so she has commercial chops. I asked her what the secret of her successful career so far and she said: “I guess the secret is passion. I get a lot of enjoyment from working on projects and people who are working in African contemporary culture and how we present that to a local African and global audience. Another secret is that I have a lot of support from mentors, family and friends I’ve made from the business sector who are never shy to share their ideas. My father Atedo Peterside launched an investment bank in the 80s at age 33 and that has been a huge inspiration for me launching Art X Lagos at a similar age.”

“One of the things I love about living in Nigeria is the amount of people willing to give ten minutes of their time in sharing their business secrets…” She lives by this rule of sharing knowledge and Art x Lagos has an executive team and advisory board.

As part of Art x Lagos Tokini is running Art x Live, an exciting concept live art and music performance, where, as you can imagine, pop and hip-hop musicians and artists perform alongside each other, creating an audio and visual experience. Last year they had music artists including Falana and Poe.

They will also host curated projects, six artists making work across mediums including photography, sculpture and installation, as well as a talks programme.

Next year they hope to expand Art X Lagos with a series of pre-fair events such as more music events, artist events and events targeted at collectors. But she’s keeping her lips sealed for now.

To budding artists who would like to get involved in ART X Lagos in future years, Tokini says: "I would advise that they attend the art fair and experience its many components, to see where they would be best suited."

Funding for Art X Lagos comes from Access Bank, 7Up and Anap Jets as well as Absolut Vodka will be sponsoring the Art x Live event. She adds: “As you know, Nigeria doesn’t have an Arts Council body that we can reach out to, nor investment funds, so it’s been a case of commercial funding.”

And with that Tokini’s publicist draws the interview to a close as she has a number of other meetings to attend. What a whirlwind Tokini is living in right now, and hopefully taking the art world by storm come November.

 Art X Lagos takes place in Lagos from 3rd to 5th November 2017. For more information visit