By Osa Amadi, Arts Editor
The Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of Access Bank Plc, Herbert Wigwe, Friday night, at the opening event of 2019 Art X Lagos, hinted that in two years time the Art X may be holding in the National Theatre to accommodate 30, 000 people.
Wigwe, the banker-art-lover, gave the hint in connection with the plan of CBN in collaboration with the Bankers Committee through the Creative Industry Financing Initiative (CIFI), to rebuild the National Theater and make it a creative hub in the likeness of Hollywood in USA.
Speaking at a gathering of special guests that included the Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, Speaker of House of Representative Femi Gbajabiamila; Mr. Atedo Peterside, founder of Stanbic IBTC Bank Plc. and other dignitaries, the Access Bank MD/CEO said:
“I am so thrilled at the unfolding excitement that Art X is bringing to Nigeria and Africa. When you go to places like Miami, and you go to the artBeso, what are they doing? It is just an opportunity to bring hundreds of thousands of people to come and share in the beauty of art and of course tourism, entertainment, etc. why can’t we do it right here in Nigeria?
“In the very first edition,” Wigwe continued, “I think you must have had about 5,000 people walk through. But I am certain that this time around, definitely you will see people in hundreds of thousands walking through here.
“Tokini said that Art X is establishing itself as the premier art fair in West Africa. I think it is Africa, not just West Africa, because it is making a difference…This time around we have 93 countries participating. Now, Africa has 55 countries. What it means is that we have people from the Diaspora, Brazil, great art collectors, and great owners of galleries coming out here to share the very best of African art. Tokini, I can only congratulate you, it is a very great thing…
“Another reason why we are doing this is also to support young talented artists…and help them nurture their skills. So this year, there is a young artist we have to celebrate. Her name is Yvonn Etinosa who is a self-taught artist and who started to basically capture some of the issues that come with trauma and terrorism. And what we’ve done in Access is to support her financially. It comes to a very generous financial package. Apart from that, we do have an arrangement where she is going to spend some time boarded at some of the very best galleries in the world.
“I told Tokini last year that we have to make it bigger, and I think we just did that. I think next year this place may not be enough. We may have to shift it and shift it….The Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) was here earlier on…together of course with Lagos State government. We are determined to change the entire creative sector. It is possible that in two years we may be having this fair in the National Theater. Lets us seat 30, 000 people. It is very, very likely to happen.”
The Lagos State governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, also spoke: “Within the last one week we have had three or four entertainment tourism events here in Lagos. It speaks to the fact that all of the narrative about Lagos is coming all together. And so for us, when we are carving out our policy statement and in our project themes, we said the second ‘E’ in our theme is entertainment and tourism. It wasn’t just out of the place. It wasn’t just a talk shop. It’s because we realized that Lagos has to be the tourism and the entertainment destination in Africa.
“Why are we in government? Why am I standing here? When government will be able to solve that traffic problem, tackle all the potholes problems; when government, primarily will be able to create an environment where all of you that are business men and women, all of the things we want to do, we must be able to create that atmosphere for you to flourish well to do it well. If we cannot get it right, then we don’t have any business being in government.”
The governor promised to work with the federal government to make it easier to those visiting Nigeria for these kind of events to get visas. He also promised that Lagos State Government will be alongside other corporate institutions and bodies who sponsor Art X. The governor also shared Wigwe’s sentiment that in few years time, places like the Federal Palace Hotel may not be able to accommodate 30, 000 visitors that will be expected at Art X Lagos, hence the need to look towards the National Theatre.
Replying, the founder of Art X, Tokini Peterside, said, “His Excellency, the governor has made some remarkable commitments here today. We did not expect that; we are over the moon.” She said she and her team are super-excited. “On behalf of our Advisory Board, many of whose members are here today, I say thank you. We look forward to working closely with Lagos.” Tokini said Art X Lagos is passionate about making Lagos a gateway destination which it is.