Union set

A creative union in the arts

Vanessa Obioha writes that the Access Bank Art X Prize continues to help emerging artists soar in their creative journeys while challenging the expectations of global audiences.

Not all unions stand the test of time, but the partnership between Art X Lagos and Access Bank continues to grow stronger with each edition.

The collaboration that began with the first edition in 2016 continues to deepen Nigeria’s ties with the contemporary art scene in Africa and the rest of the world, including hosting Africa’s first international art fair in the West which brought together visitors from all over Africa. In 2020, more than 344 artists exhibited their works, 41,000 people attended the fair and 3.6 billion people were reached.

One of the syndicate’s notable projects is the Access Bank Art X Prize. In the absence of infrastructure that exists in other international contemporary art centers, the award was launched to contribute to the burgeoning contemporary art sector in Nigeria. Each year, hundreds of artists apply to participate in the competition, and after careful selection by a jury of credible judges and live presentations of their works, a winner emerges for the grand prize. So far, the award has had four winners, 2,000 nominations and 13 artists who have exhibited since its inception. In 2019, the award was officially renamed the Access Bank Art X Prize. It provides funding, tailor-made mentoring support and a residency opportunity at Gasworks, London, to outstanding emerging artists, enabling them to carry out ambitious projects that challenge the expectations of local and global audiences.

The impact of this award is one that Tokini Peterside, founder of Art X, is very proud of, especially in stimulating the growth of Nigeria’s artistic ecosystem.

“Promoting merging artists is extremely important to Art X, and I am very proud of the impact we are having on Nigeria’s art ecosystem through platforms such as the Access Bank Art X Prize,” Peterside said via his social media page.

Through this award, Access bank and Art X Collective work so that African creations can rub shoulders with their foreign contemporaries. Winners receive funding and mentorship and continue to soar in their chosen creative journeys.

The first winner of the award was Patrick Akpojotor, a visual artist working in the fields of printmaking, painting and installation. After his victory, he participated in several group exhibitions, the most recent being “IN-TER-ACTIONS” at the Rele Art Gallery (2018), as well as the Art X Lagos art fair (2017) and Bruce Onobrakpeya and the Harmattan workshop. Exhibition (2016). His works are part of the collection of King Mohammed VI of Morocco. He is currently a full time studio artist and continues to set new auction records.

Habeeb Andu won the award in 2017, but in 2018 the award evolved to focus on emerging artists known to actively pursue their careers as professional visual artists. Bolatito Aderemi-Ibitola, a multidisciplinary artist, became the winner after the jury of five renowned artists and industry stakeholders – Professor Bruce Onobrakpeya, Yinka Shonibare CBE, Sokari Douglas Camp CBE, Wura-Natasha Ogunji and Oliver Enwonwu have reviewed his work.

Further changes were made to the award in 2019. It was renamed Access Bank Art X Prize and self-taught documentary photographer Yvonne Etinosa won this edition. Etinosa uses visual storytelling to create awareness and lead a conversation around causes that she is passionate about. One of his images was featured in TIME’s 100 Images of 2020. In addition, his multimedia project, “Everything is in my head” was also featured in the “Voices of the Wind” virtual installation. United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) film, audio and photography.

“The quality of Yvonne Etinosa’s work is testament to the potential of emerging artists in Nigeria, helped by a platform like the Access Bank Art X Award,” commented Amaechi Okobi, Group Head, Communications and Internal Affairs.

Due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, Etinosa’s solo exhibition as the winner of the Access Bank Art X Prize 2019 has been suspended in 2020. Nonetheless, for its 2020 edition, Art X Lagos has invited the public to interact virtually with 200 works from major galleries across Africa and the Diaspora and participate in 13 events. Etinosa will finally present her solo exhibition in the 2021 edition of the fair which saw the multidimensional visual artist, Chigozie Obi emerge as the winner of the Access Bank Art X award. Obi was selected by the jury composed of Ruby Onyinyechi Amanze, Alessio Antoniolli, Marie-Ann Yemsi, Ugoma Adegoke, Dexter Wimberly and Ndidi Dike. She received a grant of 1.8 million Naira for a solo presentation at ART X Lagos, a three-month residency in Gasworks, London, as well as mentoring and support.