A Look at Some of the Leading West African Contemporary Artists

Following on from the previous post, exciting new developments in West African contemporary art over the past few years have resulted in many people across the globe taking a greater interest in this topic; art aficionados like Tunde Folawiyo frequently discuss it on their blogs and social media accounts. Recently, Tunde mentioned Aabru Art, a gallery which represents a number of important West African contemporary artists; its mission is to ensure that their artwork is seen by as many international collectors and curators as possible. One of the ways in which it has achieved this is through the arrangement of ‘Transcending Boundaries’, a pop-up exhibition which has been running for three years now.

The 2015 show, which was held at the Lacey Contemporary Gallery, featured works by 35 artists, including a number of oil and mixed media paintings, as well as metal and wood sculptures. Two of the most notable artists involved in this exhibition were Abiodun Olaku and Toni Okujeni. Olaku has been involved in more than 120 group and joint exhibitions, and has had three successful solo shows. His work has been displayed and purchased by many international galleries and individual collections, not only within Africa, but also in Holland, France, the UK and the US. In addition to being the 1st Vice President and a founding member of the GFA (Guild of Professional Fine Artists of Nigeria), Olaku is also a trustee of Lagos’ Universal Studios of Art. In 2011, his lifelong devotion to his craft earned him the Master of Spatial Realism Award.

Okujeni’s track record is equally impressive; after studying at the Auchi School of Art and Design in the early seventies, he accepted a position as an illustrator at the African Guardian Magazine. However, his passion for art eventually led to him leaving this job to work full-time in his studio. Like Olaku, Okujeni has had a number of both group and solo shows around the world, including some in the US, Morocco and Nigeria. His early work was heavily influenced by Vincent Van Gogh; however, over the years, he has developed his own highly unique style, which often features impastos of crowded market places, painted in rich, vibrant hues.

The international acclaim received by the likes of Olaku and Okujeni has not only benefited them as individuals, but has also helped to bring the work of many other West African contemporary artists to the forefront of the global art industry. Hopefully, with the support of galleries such as Aabru Art, this trend will continue over the coming years, and many more talented artists will emerge from this part of the world.


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