British-Nigerian artist Yinka Shonibare plans to create two artist residencies in Nigeria through his Guest Artists Space (GAS) Foundation. The project, tentatively scheduled to to coincide with Art x Lagos art fair in November 2021, will bring the spirit of his London-based “Guest Projects” initiative—for which Shonibare offers free studio and project space to visiting artists—to West Africa. “Unfortunately, there aren’t many opportunities for artists to develop spaces in Africa,” he told the Art Newspaper. “Artists want to share ideas and have galleries and studios. But if that’s not provided, it’s left to the artists to fill that gap and take that [responsibility] upon themselves.”
For a residency center in Lagos, Shonibare has enlisted Elsie Owusu Architects to create a barrier-free, wheelchair-accessible venue that will include a gallery, studio, and accommodation spaces to support emerging and established artists. Residents will also be invited to the second residency location on a farm in Ijebu, in the Nigerian state of Ogun. Local villagers currently work on the property, which houses hundreds of cashew nut trees and other vegetation on its land and in greenhouses.
“I want the project to contribute to society, with ideas around sustainability,” said Shonibare, who often addresses cultural identity, colonialism, and globalization in his art. “I want to build an infrastructure for international artists to go to Nigeria and learn from local artists, and for artists on the ground to learn from international artists. The art world is growing in Nigeria, and there are a number of artists from the diaspora doing well internationally.”
Artists including El Anatsui, Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Olafur Eliasson, and Antony Gormley have been enlisted as trustees and advisers to GAS, which is primarily backed by Shonibare’s foundation. The artist is collaborating with Phillips auction house on a fundraiser gala and auction, slated to take place in London in May.