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Lagos Biennial 2017 debuts with artistic cultural conversations

By Japhet Alakam

All is now set for the inaugural edition of what can be described as the largest gathering of artists from all over the world in Nigeria known as the Lagos Biennial 2017. 

It is an art event that brings together artists from all over the world to engage in artistic cultural and political conversation in the city of Lagos.

With the recent mentioning of Lagos, the commercial nerve point of Africa and an art destination on the continent along with 12 other cities in a publication by Phaidon Press entitled “Art Cities of the future 21st Century Avant-Gardes” as one of the emerging art capitals of the world. The biennial is a way to project the city within an artistic frame and in a sense it is also a vehicle for tourism.  Art biennial around the world all over are a great phenomenon, there are over 100 biennials in the world and is about time that Lagos has its own biennial.

The Lagos Biennial, themed “Living on the Edge”opens to the general public on the 14th of October 2017 and runs to November 22, 2017. The inaugural edition of the Lagos Biennial explores Crisis in both historical and contemporary contexts. It will feature about 45 participating artists from about 15 countries of the world .

The exhibitions are framed around the concept of super-impositions, and examine parallel histories and counter narratives with the character of the City of Lagos as catalyst. The main Biennial exhibition will take place at the Running shed of the Railway compound in Yaba, Lagos.

Some of the participating artists include,Jelili Atiku, Rahima Gambo, Jess Atieno, Rita GT, Niyi Olangunju, Yara Mekawei, Olivia Jasinski, Kainebi Osahenye, Phoebe Boswell and a host of others.

The Lagos biennial also comes as a response to an underwhelming series of citywide exhibitions during the Lagos at 50 celebrations. It has become necessary to open up an artistic dialogue with the rest of the world in the form of large scale projects and exhibitions of contemporary art. This Artist run event will hold once every two years in the city of Lagos at various locations with the primary aim of opening cultural, artistic and political conversations from Lagos to the rest of the world.

According to the artistic director, Folakunle Oshun, one of the aims is to capture the individual and collective efforts of art practitioners in and around the continent, while also harnessing the creative ambitions of artists from all over the world in this dynamic space.

“Though there are art events all over Lagos, but the biggest and only reference to this is the FESTAC 77 which happened exactly 40 years ago. Apart from the FESTAC ’77 and more recently Lagos photo, ARESUVA, and Art X, the city of Lagos has blossomed in the arts with notable personalities taking on the international art scene in various capacities as artists, curators, art historians etc.”

Speaking about the venues, he stated that the  venues are quite historic, is supported by Legacy 1995,a historical and environmental interest group in Nigeria who are the main partners for the Lagos Biennial 2017 and will be granting access to monumental and historic architecture in the city of Lagos.


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