Art shows in Lagos

Op-Ed: Why Are Art Shows In Lagos Boring?


The third edition of Sao & the muse was one of the best art shows in Lagos in 2018, and there have been lots of art shows this year, [when I say art show, I mean an event focusing on Visual Art forms, not music concerts, or fashion shows].

Sao & The muse 3 was honestly a brilliant art show, the three days event hosted at Sao Cafe Lagos had artists/entities practicing with different mediums coming together to create, the theme was Collaboration. DJ Aye! was paired with Williams Chechet, Jane Michael Ekanem was paired with Pop Artii, Leadway Assurance Ltd was paired with The Yellow Of Lagos, there were exhibiting artists like August Udoh, Obi Chigozie, John Madu, and more, with the first day climaxing into an underwhelming performance by Odunsi.

Art shows in Lagos
Sao and the Muse 3

However, it is an interesting observation that even the best Art shows are really enjoyable only for the first twenty minutes you spend there, the graphical illustration of the excitement of an art show attendee if drawn will definitely look like a male sexual organ 40 seconds after ejaculation, it only goes down. A typical art lover/attendee steps through the door, with a big optimistic grin on their face, walks around, admires the artworks, asks the artists or curators questions, networks, take selfies, and the big optimistic grin gradually dissolves into restless boredom. If you go alone, you should begin to see your grin go limp after your first 10 minutes.

So why are art shows boring exactly?

In the course of writing this, I had to confirm I was not the only one with this belief of art shows being boring, I wanted to confirm I was not just delusional, so I spent time having conversations with fellow young artists, art-lovers, and people whom I often bumped into whenever I attended an art exhibition or workshop, it had to be people that actually spend time attending art shows.
One lady mentioned the fact that a lot of Art shows often fall into the trap of celebrating superficial art, as long as they came from well-connected or influential artists. This I realized is true to an extent, the amount of hype that is thrown at mediocre art on social media, for instance, cannot be understated, however, we have to understand that at the end of the day Galleries have to make money to keep the art ecosystem healthy, but I believe there should be a balance.

It is a hidden but ugly fact that classism is a big part of the system in the Art scene in Lagos, and this actually turns a lot of art-loving Lagosians off from art shows, and what about the segregation that makes most people (even young artists) feel like outsiders. I have often mentioned this but it was interesting having others notice this epidemic.

Art shows in Lagos


Another problem might be that contemporary art has become monotonous, contemporary artists are gradually getting stuck repeating the same overdone narrative of ‘Afro-ism’ [I think I just coined a new word]. We understand the need for documentation of Africa by Africans, but it shouldn’t be reduced to a shortcut for artists that have run out of ideas. There really is a lot of themes waiting to be discovered and explored. With every artist waving the ‘afro-ism’ flag without actually saying anything new, it becomes a sort of tiresome chore seeing an exhibition as there is nothing new to be discussed.

Art Talks and seminars can be considered to be the face of boredom in the art scene, everyone naturally dread seminars or talks, you will probably only see a crowded auditorium when there is a strong enough incentive like free food or the presence of a dignitary, the latter was the obvious case in the maiden edition of the Art Summit, a two day event organized by Rele. The auditorium was filled up barely one hour after it started on the first day, unlike the second day when the attendees were as sparse as innovative photographers in Lagos. The first day saw a full auditorium chiefly because of the presence of the Vice President, His Excellency, Professor Yemi Osinbajo.

Art Shows in Lagos
VP Osinbajo speaking at the Art Summit

Art talks are often repetitive, with a few exceptions. It is the same artists telling the same stories only in different venues.

It’s noteworthy that Portfolio reviews and Workshops (e.g The Photography workshops hosted by AAF) are free of the cloud of boredom that lingers in other art shows, which could be due to their very interactive nature. It might sound ludicrous but what if we have an art show that lasted for only twenty minutes, a very brief Art X for instance, where the public has only twenty minutes to absorb all they can, imagine how thrilling and memorable this would be. We’ll have more people looking at the hung artworks than staring at their phones.

It is urgently needed that we recognize the various afflictions the Art scene in Lagos suffers from, then we can move forward to having a constructive discourse to develop a cure.


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