Year founded: 2017
Organiser: Akete Art Foundation


In line with the spirit of Lagos which is all-welcoming, the Lagos biennial is not driven by Afrocentric ideologies but rather embraces the unifying simplicity of the human experience.

The Lagos Biennial was founded in 2017 as a not-for-profit contemporary art platform under the Àkéte Art Foundation, which is a Lagos-based artist collective registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission in Nigeria. The biennial positions the city of Lagos—with its highly international purview—as its hub in supporting and promoting contemporary art through exhibitions, public programmes, publications, research, and residencies. Through these activities, the biennial privileges adventurous approaches to art making, presentation, and critical discourse -aspiring to broach complex social and political problems, cultivate new publics, and establish fresh modes of engagement within the city, as well as throughout the country and internationally.

Living on the Edge, the 2017 inaugural edition of the Lagos Biennial encapsulated the foregoing ethos. The event, spanning two months, brought together thirty-seven artists from five continents to present a combination of new and pre-existing work across the city. Prior to the biennial’s opening, many of the artists engaged the city through extended residencies during which they collaborated with local artists and institutions, and pursued independent research projects. Navigating Lagos’s oft-cited “chaos” and liveliness, much of the work in the inaugural edition waged organic responses to the city’s history and contemporary social dynamics. The core biennial exhibitions were held at the historic and, until recently, derelict Nigerian Railway Corporation in Yaba on the Lagos mainland. As suggested by its title, the exhibitions in the inaugural edition fostered interactions between visitors, artists, and local communities living in and around the railway terminal infrastructure. The result raised critical and provocative questions about art’s capacity to shed light on the city’s socioeconomic inadequacies and storied architectural history.