Culture is a big part of the fabric of the African continent and this has manifested in various aspects of the people.
The contemporary art scene is filled with traces of the continent’s rich culture.
There may not be many hubs or institutions on the continent dedicated to art, but this is gradually changing.
The West African art scene has seen a major surge with many individuals running homegrown art galleries that have made appearances on the international art scene.
Experts in the art industry have identified one problem that, when addressed, could change the way individuals view art and the talented minds behind them.
Hannah O’Leary, head of Modern and Contemporary African Art at Sotheby’s says the industry in Africa needs infrastructure.
“On the whole, there is a real lack of public support. We are seeing lots of raw talent, but we need more of a market structure in order to support their careers.”
On that note, here are some of West Africa’s art hubs that you should visit when on the continent.
Instead of purchasing an art piece made on large scale as a souvenir for a loved one, purchase one of these lovely bespoke art pieces from any of the galleries listed here:
Gallery 1957 (Accra, Ghana)
Gallery 1957 is a principal gallery in Ghana offering a myriad of exhibitions, installations and performances by key contemporary exhibitors in the country. The maiden exhibition featured artist Serge Attukwei Clottey, whose works bother on both ethereal and political themes. The gallery’s name is the year Ghana gained independence and its located in Kempinski Hotel Gold Coast City.
Nubuke Foundation (Accra, Ghana)
Nubuke Foundation is one of the art hubs seeking to help nurture the next generation of creatives. It was founded in 2006 in the country’s capital Accra and runs as a non-profit, visual arts and cultural organisation.
The Nubuke Foundation has a main gallery displaying traditional art, a modern art gallery, an outdoor bar, an event/lecture area, and a fashionable clothing boutique.
The foundation offers avenues for exhibitions with varied themes, artists’ talks, poetry, readings, workshops, exchanges and residency opportunities.
Art 21 (Lagos, Nigeria)
Art 21 is a modern art gallery in Lagos, Nigeria and it is a true reflection of Lagos’ place in the world of art. It is located within Eko Hotel and Suites. If you are looking to collect artworks from various contemporary artists on the continent, then visit Arts 21.
The gallery recently opened its doors to major artists from Ghana and the Republic of Benin, reflecting the gallery’s tendency to promote art from the West African region.
Art 21 has participated in a few international African art events such as the 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair in London and New York.
Nike Centre for Arts and Culture (Lagos, Nigeria)
Nike Art Gallery houses a diverse array of over 8,000 artworks by Nigerian artists in various media, including painting, mixed media, metalwork, digital and wooden sculptures in its 5-storey building.
This centre can boast of training over 3,000 young Nigerian artists who have now established themselves in the art industry in the country. This makes the purpose of establishing the center relevant for people who need it.
It was founded with the goal of supporting, improving and maintaining a thriving environment for the growth of African cultural heritage in Nigeria. Nike Centre for Arts and Culture has branches in Oshogbo, Kogi and Abuja.
Raw Material Company (Dakar, Senegal)
This company emerged in 2008 as a mobile art project but is now located in Dakar. It offers a distinctive avenue for artist talks, master classes, symposia, and lectures on a wide range of topics such as urbanity, literature, film, politics, and the diaspora.
It has a Raw Gallery which is a 100-square-metre exhibition space. There is also the Raw Residency, which provides accommodation for international artists, curators, and authors specialising in photography, video, and art in public space.
The broad and interdisciplinary programme run by the Raw Material company transcends the borders of Senegal and it focuses on “the promotion of artistic and intellectual creativity in Africa, a critical reflection of society, and the exchange of knowledge across cultures.”
Galerie Nationale d’Art du Sénégale (Dakar, Senegal)
The Galerie Nationale d’Art was created in 1983 and it reportedly houses the country’s most extensive collection of contemporary arts that are usually displayed in exhibitions. Galerie Nationale d’Art du Sénégale is the space that hosts many artistic events and festivals in the country due to its partnerships with Senegalese art collectives and independent organisations.
Galerie Peter Herrmann (Lome, Togo)
Peter Herrmann moved his gallery from Germany and established it in Togo in 2013 because the exhibitions were not gaining traction in Berlin.
In addition, Herrmann did his homework and liaised with the continent’s expanding art lovers and creators. To date, the gallery has hosted a wealth of world-renowned artists such as Liz Crossley, Berry Bickle, Goddy Leye, Mamadou Gomis, Zohra Opoku, Nicole Guiraud, George Osodi and Bill Kouélany.
The gallery does well to represent its artists at international fairs like Documenta and Africa Remix and the biennales in Venice, Gwangju, Johannesburg and Dakar.
The gallery also encourages and helps new talents while working with already established ones. Galerie Peter Herrmann is hailed as a highbrow platform for conversations pertaining to the industry and it offers other programmes such as music, gastroscopy, literature, theatre and group discussions.
The Zinsou Foundation (Ouidah, Benin)
Established in 2005, The Zinsou Foundation was set up with the aim of using art as a tool for development while raising the profile of contemporary art by local artists in Benin. Bent on nurturing local talent, the foundation also runs a series of educational programmes that allow school children access to art.
One such programme is the Culture Bus (Bus Culturel), while modern systems by national and international artists continue to attract Ouidah’s art enthusiasts, from the eccentric sculptures of Romuald Hazoumé to the street-art inspired works of Jean-Michel Basquiat. The foundation is a curator of contemporary African works, informed by an aesthetic and cultural commitment to the industry.
Galerie Cécile Fakhoury (Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire)
Galerie Cécile Fakhoury was established in 2012, feeding into Côte d’Ivoire’s fast-growing status as an artistic hub. Galerie Cécile Fakhoury promotes modern-day art on the African continent. It has hosted a vibrant list of individual and group exhibitions.
The conversations aroused by the gallery’s artists aim at being resolutely contemporary, sharp, enthusiastic, and sometimes committed. The artists draw inspiration from their environment whiles addressing societal issues. They also act as historians capturing the happenings of the country for the world in their pieces.