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In Conversation with Adenrele Sonariwo: On Rele Gallery's Expansion to London & plans to spotlight pioneering projects by African artists

Nine years ago, when gallerist and cultural advisor, Adenrele Sonariwo, founded Rele Gallery in Lagos, Nigeria, it initially seemed like just another addition to the growing African art scene. Few could have predicted it would evolve into a force spanning three continents, occupying prime locations in three major cities. 

Six years later, Rele blossomed with a Los Angeles outpost, and now, just three years after that, it's poised to leave its mark on a third continent with the opening of its London gallery on February 22nd, 2024.



Peju Alatise, When It Rains, I'll Send For You, 22 February - 23 March 2024, Rele Gallery
Peju Alatise, We Came With The Last Rain, I'll Send For You, 22 February - 23 March 2024, Rele Gallery

The gallery's growth trajectory has been impressive. From its smaller location on Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles to moving into a spacious 3,500 sq ft space on N Western Avenue, and then making a similar strategic move in Lagos, when it expanded from Onikan–a cultural hub housing museums and institutions. The London space, situated on the famous Dover Street, covers about 3,000 sq ft across two floors. But the expansion to London means more than a simple move for Rele Gallery, but builds on the gallery’s vision for showing pioneerinxg projects from African artists, as well as showcasing the gallery’s expanding roster of artists to a prominent international platform.


Our interview with the Sonariwo underpins this move...



Potrait of Adenrele Sonariwo, Image courtesy of Rele Gallery.
Potrait of Adenrele Sonariwo, Image courtesy of Rele Gallery.

Art Report Africa: Why London? What drew you to open a location in the UK, and how does it fit into the gallery's global vision?


Adenrele Sonariwo: London was a natural choice for me as the next destination for Rele Gallery. It reflects a progression for the gallery, aligning with our collaborative goals and vision for growth of our artists. Our influence across three continents, fostering connections within diverse artistic communities was a result of careful consideration and long-term planning.


As the art world has grown internationally, London has continued to be a point of convergence for growing art scenes. Through hosting art fairs and other happenings, London has been able to ensure that key players still gather in the city. We look forward to future conversations that celebrate the transformative power of African creativity in one of the world's most influential art capitals.


ARA: Can you tell us more about the chosen space in Mayfair? What aspects of the location excite you, and what were the intentions behind the space interior/design.


Mayfair is home to the world’s most prominent art galleries and by opening a third outpost in its center oers unparalleled exposure and amplifies its visibility to engage with a diverse audience of art enthusiasts.


The overarching vision of Rele Gallery, London is to provide a conducive space for exhibiting pioneering projects from African artists and promoting its expanding roster of talents on a prominent international platform. The space is aimed at creating an immersive and versatile environment that fosters artistic dialogue, innovation, and engagement.


ARA: How does Rele Gallery plan to engage with the local London Art community? Are there any partnerships or collaborations in the works?


Yes, we intend to participate fully and embed ourselves within the local art eco-system. We are looking forward to unveiling all the programs we have planned in the next couple of months.


ARA: What kind of artistic voice will Rele Gallery London bring to the city? What types of exhibitions and artists can we expect to see? Can you share some of the programming for the gallery in 2024?


Our voice will remain the same across all locations, to champion artists who innovate within their artistic practices, exploring new techniques and forms; and touching on subject matters that are relevant and topical.. In London, the gallery's inaugural exhibition by Peju Alatise from February 22nd to March 23rd delves into poignant societal issues through compelling new sculptural works. Followed by a solo exhibition featuring Marcellina Akpojotor from April 4th to May 11th, her evocative collages and traditional painting techniques delve into themes of familial relationships and femininity.


ARA: Rele Gallery has established itself in Lagos and Los Angeles as a pillar for Contemporary African Art. How will the London branch build upon the existing legacy and contribute to the gallery's international network?


The new space emphasises the gallery’s ambition to grow in synergy with its roster of international artists. Matching their energy and output, it will allow for simultaneous presentations whilst continuing to reflect the gallery’s reputation for showing new bodies of work, pioneering projects and exhibitions. To further expand the gallery's reach, we will be promoting and providing a platform for emerging African artists to engage with international audiences and establish connections within the global art community.



Opening of Rele Gallery and installation image of What's In a Name Exhibition, 2024. Image Courtesy of Rele Gallery
Opening of Rele Gallery LA and installation image of We Came With The Last Rain Exhibition, 2024. Image Courtesy of Rele Gallery

ARA: Could you tell us a bit about the gallery's overall vision and mission. How do you intend to bring African Art to the Global Art Market.


By providing a platform for artists to share their stories, perspectives, and experiences, the gallery seeks to facilitate meaningful connections and engagements that transcend geographical boundaries, promoting mutual understanding and appreciation of African art worldwide.


 

ABOUT RELE GALLERY


Rele Gallery is a dynamic contemporary art gallery with 3 locations between Lagos, Nigeria, Los Angeles, USA and London, UK, founded to act as a critical interface between the African and international art worlds. It dedicates its programme to representing and exhibiting emerging and established artists working across diverse media in Africa and its diaspora.


Established in 2015, the gallery is focused on promoting a larger appreciation and engagement of African art, making it accessible to both a local and global audience. Rele Gallery’s latest London space provides a further platform for artists to build dialogues with its growing network of international collaborators.


In keeping with its mission of situating art and artists from Africa in broader, international contexts, Rele gallery participates in global art fairs and established a non-profit in 2016, The Rele Arts Foundation, which hosts a yearly residency program.


 

ABOUT RELE FOUNDATION


The Rele Arts Foundation established in 2016 is a non-profit initiative that engages and drives the practice and reception of contemporary art in Africa while exploring the role of art as a tool for social change and positive impact. The foundation runs a residency program, a yearly Young Contemporaries exhibition at Rele Gallery and more recently, the R2 Space Arts Residency for mid-career artists.


The Young Contemporaries is a residency program for early-career artists from Africa to guide and refine their work through a series of rigorous mentoring, seminars and exhibitions. Established in 2016 and thanks to the continuous support of the Ekiti state government and other organisations such as Africa No Filter, the Rele Young Contemporaries program has supported over 100 early-career artists from all over Africa who have gone on to have established careers. Some of the alumni include Chidimma Nnoli, Marcellina Akpojotor, Tonia Nneji, Sejiro Avoseh, Dipo Doherty, Stephen Tayo, Eloghosa Osunde, Osaru Obaseki, Logor Olumuyiwa, and Fidelis Joseph among many others.

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In Conversation with Adenrele Sonariwo: On Rele Gallery's Expansion to London & plans to spotlight pioneering projects by African artists

February 21, 2024

Art Report Africa

5 min read

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