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Feature | Challenging the white cube: alternative art spaces in Lagos

The resurgence of non-conventional, anti-establishment and dual-concept art spaces are popping up across Lagos, and here is why

An alternative art space refers to the way in which an artist can exhibit their work outside of traditional gallery and museum spaces. Typically these spaces are converted from their original purpose, or both functions are integrated into one in order to create a hybrid space, such as an apartment, garage, warehouse or store front, which is then made into a display or performance space for use by an artist or group.

A horde of alternative art spaces are popping up in megacities across the globe. Access to public funding for non-traditional art forms and methods may be limited or non-existent in many territories, as a result these grassroots spaces have ample room to flourish.

'Black Magic' series by Cédrine Scheidig

Alternative art spaces in Lagos have been fronted by a host of savvy artists and curators, all of whom have adopted new attitudes towards the concept of alternative hybrid models of space. Many incorporating a not-for-profit or for-profit component. These spaces have been instrumental in championing new work and emerging artists, decentralising contemporary African art across particular districts in Lagos and providing a creative outlet for the community.

On a recent trip to Lagos I had the pleasure of visiting some of these spaces. I found that each space was able to develop and maintain its identity and sense of purpose over time - overcoming adversity when met with resistance from those living in the boroughs. Each of the named platforms are independent entities within Lagos, adeptly using larger art systems, or rejecting it or embracing it depending on the mood or circumstance of an exhibition, artist, or project.

'Black Magic' series by Cédrine Scheidig

Vernacular Art-space Laboratory Foundation (VAL Foundation) is based in Iwaya, Lagos. The space is led by self-taught artist and cultural activist Aderemi Adegbite and acts as a creative outlet for those within the community who may not have the means to access galleries or museums. VAL Foundation has also conceived the Iwaya Community Art Festival, which occurs annually where installations and performances take place alternative and abandoned spaces on the streets in Iwaya.

The Treehouse in located in Ikoyi, on the top floor of a seven-story building in Ikoyi, founded by artist and curator Wura-Natasha Ogunji. The hybrid site functions as a studio, home and creative space for Ogunji. The Treehouse provides artists with a space for creative experimentation and discourse, while challenging our perception of space, community and architecture.

16/16 is a dual-concept art space and boutique Airbnb located in Victoria Island, founded by Tushar Hathiramani. The platform has supported in the exchange of ideas and art amongst Nigerian creatives and art practitioners.

video sequence @CCA Lagos by Cédrine Scheidig

Center for Contemporary Art in Yaba, founded by the late curator Bisi Silva, is one of the major non-commercial contemporary art hubs in Lagos. The space provides a platform for emerging artists to develop and experiment with under-represented art mediums and allow for discussion. The space also inhabits a visual art library, amassing 1000s of titles related to work from Nigeria and beyond.

photography @CCA Lagos by Cédrine Scheidig

hFactor is the brainchild of creative entrepreneurial collective Bubu Ogisi, Dolapo Osunsina, Tushar Hathiramani and Osione Itegboje. The multi-concept building and rooftop space is situated in the heart of Lagos Island, opening its doors for exhibitions, talks, film screenings, performances and parties.

Baroque Age Studio in Lekki, is an ongoing collaborative project between young Nigerian creatives, who between them juggle a number of creative endeavours including a publication, a fashion label and gallery space. Their exhibitions tend to explore the process and relationship of technology.

Alternative art spaces will continue to evolve, as they have proved to make a significant impact on the social and creative landscape in Lagos - provide many emerging artists with an outlet to explore what they believe and understand to be contemporary art. These multifaceted spaces nestled into bustling boroughs within Lagos are often developed from a linear idea; to provide sanctuary for the next generation of Nigerian artists. These are the homes, the studios, the shop fronts, the abandoned buildings that are providing hope at a time where support for the arts and cultural infrastructure in Lagos consistently fails. The resurgence and defiance of these spaces is proof the sentiment of community rings true.

Words: Maggie Ibiam

Visual: Cédrine Scheidig

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