Tokini Peterside didn’t set out to become one of the most important figures in the world of contemporary African art. Nor was she looking to create West Africa’s pre-eminent art fair when she launched Art X Lagos nearly three years ago. “I wanted Nigeria and the international art world to come out and play,” Peterside says during a rare moment of downtime ahead of the fair’s fourth edition. “I wanted a genuine exchange, not just of business opportunities—I wanted an exchange of intellectual ideals.” And, she adds, “I wanted to help people to experience just how dynamic Lagos is.”
Celebrated Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie recently called Lagos “the aspirational axis where dreams will live or die.” And while a large percentage of its population exists well below the poverty line, private jets, Veuve Clicquot–soaked polo matches, and lavish weddings with guest lists that run into the thousands are also far from uncommon in this town. A socialite’s Insta-boasts about a day trip to Italy for gelato with her billionaire father went viral this summer and spawned the perfectly titled hit song “Gelato.” It’s a clientele Peterside knows all too well.