Rele Opens a Gallery in Los Angeles, the new “Art Capital of the World - Paul Ukpabio's Blog


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Sunday, 24 January 2021

Rele Opens a Gallery in Los Angeles, the new “Art Capital of the World

Adenrele Sonariwo, founder, Rele Gallery

Nigerian gallery, Rele, has announced the planned opening of its third space, scheduled for February 1, 2021.

It is the first to be located outside Lagos, Nigeria. It is in Los Angeles, United States of America and it will be inaugurated with a group exhibition titled: Orita Meta- Crossroads, featuring works by three female artists: Tonia Nneji, Chidinma Nnoli, and Marcellina Akpojotor.

“The opening of the gallery space on Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles, the largest city in California, marks the first time a gallery from the African continent would open in the Los Angeles area”, Rele says in a statement.

The Melrose Avenue is an upmarket part of Los Angeles, a city known as the entertainment capital of the world, but which has also become, to Rele Gallery’s likely benefit, the United States’ “leading artistic centre, surpassing the previous champion, New York”, according to a recent (2020) claim by

“In other words”, the website says, “Los Angeles has both a larger concentration and absolute number of artists than New York”. What it doesn’t say is whether the market itself has surpassed New York in terms of the volume and value of art sold and bought.

Rele describes the artists showing at the inaugural fare as “a good collection of some of the most talented contemporary African artists currently creating on the African continent”.

The exhibition title, the gallery explains, is taken from a book and painting by Peju Alatise, a quite accomplished Nigerian artist. The title is loosely translated from a Yoruba phrase meaning “a junction where three roads meet.”. Alatishe’s book, about three hardworking Nigerian women whose paths crossed, is a work of -fiction written in an earnest, if freewheeling, literary style and published about 14 years ago. If it gets a chance of being re-published, the text could do with a bit of an overhaul.

Marcellina Akpojotor sits in front of her work, titled: Like Other Days, 2019, Fabric, Acrylic on Canvas, 60 X 77 inch.

Aged between 31 and 21, Akpotojor, Nneji, and Nnoli, are relatively young members of the Nigerian art circuit, who broke into the scene between 2013 (Akpotojor) and 2019 (Nnoli). Two of them (Akpojotor and Nnoli), arrived, largely through the instrumentality of Rele Gallery’s talent delivery platforms; the Rele Arts Foundation Young Contemporaries exhibition 2017 (for Akpojotor) and Rele Arts Foundation’s Young Contemporaries Bootcamp 2019 (for Nnoli).

Chidinma Nnoli’s Family Portrait, 2019, Oil on Canvas, 40 x 40 inch (101.6 x 101.6 cm)

All three are predisposed to drawing pictures with figurative forms, with strong narrative bent, but whereas Akpojotor and Nneji work with fabrics with results that are bold and assertive, Nnoli paints with oil and her pieces are quite conservative.

Tonia Nneji: Night Series 2, Courtesy, Rele Gallery

Rele states that Akpjotor’s work “investigates the politics of the fabric as a cultural signifier and a conduit for memory and shared energy”. The gallery describes Nneji’s work as exploring “the relationship between trauma and the female body” and argues, on Nnoli’s behalf, that her art “confronts socially entrenched structures of patriarchal power and misogyny as enforced by the state, familial relationships and religious organisations”.

Culled; bookartville

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