Places to See Great Art in West Africa
West Africa is well known for the rich diversity of her culture and art forms, expressed across a broad range of media, including painting, sculpture, installation and video. Represented by a growing number of professionally run indigenous galleries, many West African artists continue to gain increasing recognition globally through first rate exhibitions, both locally and internationally, some of the world’s most prestigious art fairs, as well as publications with critical and scholarly texts. These galleries contribute in large measure to the region’s vigorous artistic scene, and consequently, the international market for art from the African continent. Lets us take a look at some of the leading ones and non-profit spaces, which offer some of the best art to see in West Africa.
Galerie Cécile Fakhoury (Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire)
Côte d’Ivoire is fast becoming an artistic hub, courtesy of galleries like Galerie Cécile Fakhoury, which promotes contemporary art on the African continent. It was established in 2012 and has a rich rooster of individual and group exhibitions. The dialogue created by the gallery’s artists aims at being decisively contemporary, strong, passionate, and sometimes committed. Observers of the world they live in, the artists take a lucid and critical look at our society and record its history while being a part of the internal memory of their country, which defines their connection to the world.
Omenka Gallery (Lagos, Nigeria)
Established in 2003, Omenka is a leading art gallery in Nigeria and Africa. It is located in the home of late celebrated Nigerian artist Ben Enwonwu MBE, NNOM (1917-94), which lends to its historical and cultural significance. Omenka represents a fine selection of established and emerging contemporary Nigerian and international artists working in diverse media. With a particular focus on ensuring a sustainable presence for art from Nigeria and Africa within a larger global context, Omenka participates in major art events all over the world like the The Armory Show, New York, Art Dubai, UAE, the Joburg Art Fair, Cape Town Art Fair, Docks Art Fair, Lyon, LOOP, Barcelona, Cologne Paper Art, Art14, and 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair in London and New York.
Artist Alliance Gallery (Accra, Ghana)
Celebrated Ghanaian artist Ablade Glover established the Artist Alliance Gallery. Unique in Ghana, the gallery is spread across 3 floors, displaying sculpture, artefacts and paintings by such recognised artists like Owusu Ankomah, George Hughes, Ebenezer Borlabie and Glover himself. There are collectors’ pieces too; Asafo flags with appliquéd and embroidered symbols, ancient strip-woven Kente cloths by the Akan and Ewe, African masks of the kind that inspired Picasso, as well as intricately carved furniture.
Rele Gallery (Lagos, Nigeria)
Established in February 2015, Rele is an exciting art gallery in Lagos. It aims to trigger newfound appreciation for art from Africa. Rele, offers an unconventional, contemporary art space that marries two symbiotic purposes; to offer first-rate art for public consumption and to nurture the artists, bringing their work to a larger African and global audience. Rele focuses on constantly pushing boundaries, challenging people to find meaning beyond the most apparent.
Galerie Le Manége (Dakar, Senegal)
Leading Senegalese gallery, Galerie Le Manége, is the exhibition gallery of the French Institute Ex-ccf (Center Culturel Français) and was established with the aim of promoting French culture abroad. It was inaugurated in 2005 with an exhibition themed Contemporary Creation in Senegal: Graphic Art and Sculpture. The gallery supports mainly Senegalese artists but is often times open to other contemporary African artists.
Centre for Contemporary Art (Lagos, Nigeria)
The Centre for Contemporary Art (CCA) Lagos is an independent, non-profit organisation for the visual arts created in 2007 to provide a public forum for the development and presentation of ideas and cultural practices in contemporary visual arts and culture, as well as promote critical work in this context. In addition to collaborating with other African and international artists, curators and organisations, CCA Lagos contributes to the development of artistic production and curatorial practice in Nigeria and West Africa. CCA’s focus is on new media works and experimental visual art – such as photography, animation, film, video, performance and installation – that are still relatively unnoticed in Nigeria. With a diverse and inspiring programme featuring lectures, seminars, workshops and exhibitions, CCA Lagos continues to reach new art audiences throughout the world.
Galerie Peter Herrmann (Lome, Togo)
Galerie Peter Hermann was established in Lome, Togo in 2013, when German owner Peter Herrmann decided to move his gallery from Germany because contemporary art from Africa was not enjoying the success it deserved in Berlin. In addition, Herrman researched and identified a growing demographic of art-lovers in Togo. Today, the gallery features a wealth of world-renowned artists such as Liz Crosssley, Berry Bickle, Goddy Leye, Mamdou Gomis, Zohra Opoku, Nicole Guiraud, George Osodi and Bill Kouélany. Artists represented by the gallery have participated in major international art exhibitions like Documenta and Africa Remix and the biennales in Venice, Gwangju, Johannesburg and Dakar. Besides representing more established artists, the gallery also supports new talents. In addition, music, gastroscopy, literature, theatre and group discussions are also part of the gallery’s programme and have made Galerie Peter Herrmann an intellectual platform for dialogue.
The Zinsou Foundation (Ouidah, Benin)
Established in 2005, The Zinsou Foundation was set up with the aim of using art as a conduit for development, while raising the profile of contemporary art in Benin. Focused on local artists, the foundation also runs a series of educational programmes that allow school children access to art. They include the Culture Bus (Bus Culturel), while modern installations by national and international artists continue to attract Ouidah’s art aficionados, from the outlandish sculptures of Romuald Hazoumé to the street-art inspired works of Jean-Michel Basquiat. The foundation also collects contemporary African works, enlightened by an aesthetic and cultural commitment.
Gallery 1957 (Accra, Ghana)
Gallery 1957 is a leading gallery in Ghana presenting a programme of exhibitions, installations and performances by the country’s most significant contemporary artists. The inaugural exhibition presented the works of acclaimed artist Serge Attukwei Clottey, whose works contemplate both ethereal and political themes.
The 140-square-metre space is located within the newly built Kempinski Hotel Gold Coast City, and is named after the year Ghana gained independence.
Galerie Nationale d’Art du Sénégale (Dakar, Senegal)
Created in 1983, The Galerie Nationale d’Art is home to what is probably the country’s most eclectic collection of modern art, which is regularly put on exhibition. Galerie Nationale d’Art du Sénégale is a space for the promotion of the visual arts and artists from Senegal and abroad. Its interaction with Senegalese art collectives and independent organisations means that it is a regular host venue for artistic events and festivals in the country.
Nubuke Foundation (Accra, Ghana)
Nubuke Foundation is a non-profit, visual arts and cultural organisation established in 2006 in Accra, to nurture and promote artistic talent in Ghana. Programmes include exhibitions, artists’ talks, poetry, readings, workshops, exchanges and residency opportunities, as well as exhibitions with themes spanning the political to the celebratory and abstract. The Nubuke Foundation features a main gallery displaying traditional art, a modern art gallery, an outdoor bar, an event/lecture area, and a trendy clothing boutique.
Art 21 (Lagos, Nigeria)
Art 21 is a modern art gallery in Lagos, Nigeria. Its existence represents Lagos’ growing relevance on the global art scene. Art 21 is located within the upscale Eko Hotel and Suites and is the perfect space for curating cutting edge works by contemporary artists from across the African continent. Recent exhibitions have featured major artists from Ghana and the Republic of Benin, reflecting the gallery’s inclination towards promoting art from the West African region. Art 21 has an increasing presence at international African art events, showcasing their artists at art events such as the 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair in London and New York.
Raw Material Company (Dakar, Senegal)
Founded in 2008 as a mobile art initiative, the Raw Material Company has established a permanent address in Dakar, providing a unique space for artist talks, master classes, symposia, and lectures on a wide range of topics such as urbanity, literature, film, politics, and diaspora. The Raw Material Company also includes the Raw Gallery, a 100-square-metre exhibition space, and the Raw Residency, which provides accommodation for international artists, curators, and authors specialising in photography, video, and art in public space. The Raw Material Company’s discursive and interdisciplinary programme is active in many countries around the world, focusing on the promotion of artistic and intellectual creativity in Africa, a critical reflection of society, and the exchange of knowledge across cultures.
African Artist Foundation (Lagos, Nigeria)
Established in 2007, African Artist Foundation (AAF) is a non-profit organisation that aims to encourage the highest standards of art in Africa. AAF serves a significant role in art and academic communities through organising art exhibitions, festivals, competitions, residencies, and workshops to unearth and develop talent, creating societal awareness, and providing a platform to express creativity. In addition to a rigorous programme of exhibitions and workshops at its gallery in Lagos, African Artists’ Foundation organises two flagship projects annually, the Lagos Photo Festival and the National Art Competition, presenting an avenue for contemporary art in Nigeria to flourish, while giving the artists exposure to local and international audience.
Nike Centre for Arts and Culture (Lagos, Nigeria)
Standing at 5-stories tall, the Nike Art Gallery houses an eclectic mix of over 8,000 artworks by Nigerian artists in various media including; painting, mixed media, metal work, digital and wooden sculptures. It was established with the aim of promoting, enhancing and sustaining an enabling environment for the growth of African cultural heritage in Nigeria. Besides Lagos, Nike Centre for Arts and Culture also operates in Oshogbo, Kogi and Abuja. The centre has trained over 3,000 young Nigerians, now earning decent living through art.
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