M. C.   A R T   S E R I E S

When I first saw Wole Lagunju’s work, I immediately understood why he was being celebrated internationally as 'one to watch.' Smashing auction records, his paintings have been snapped up in recent months from London to Lagos, Paris, and New York. Wole Lagunju is the first artist selected by Nico Kos Earle to appear in our M.C. Art Series. His mesmeric paintings are an imaginative blend of contemporary with traditional, often incorporating intricate Gelede Masks and lush botanical scenes. I am looking forward to having one of his incredible paintings on my wall soon.

W O L E   L A G U N J U

Lagunju grew up in Osogbo, Southern Nigeria, a town famous for its Unesco World Heritage site: the dense forest of the Osun Sacred Grove. One of the last remnants of primary high forest, this grove and meandering river is dotted with shrines and sculptures in honour of the river goddess Osun and other deities. Still celebrated in the annual Osun-Osogbo festival, this sacred grove is probably the last in Yoruba culture, hence its deep significance in Lagunju’s work.


"Over the years, my art practice has examined the cultural idioms and visual design of the indigenous artistic practices of traditional Yoruba women in Nigeria," explains Lagunju. "In my paintings and installations, I have explored the design and motifs found in adiré textiles, traditionally dyed indigo fabric. Recently my art has also examined Gelede masks with a view to bringing fresh insights into Yoruba mask making."


Wole Lagunju’s work is associated with Onaism, a contemporary art movement of the Ife Art School where he studied. In reimagining the forms and philosophies of traditional Yoruba art, he began to create vibrant portraits that interrogate themes of post-colonial culture. Liberally pairing Yoruban art forms like Gelede masks and Indigo Adire textiles with Western dress, he questions social identity and hierarchy. As Professor Imani Perry says in her essay for Ed Cross Fine Art, 'Though his figures are clothed in European finery, the Ori, the heads of his subjects, where philosophy and spirit both reside, are Yoruba. The African intellect embodied here, creates order and beauty through the crush of history.”

C O N T E M P O R A R Y   C U L T U R E 

Originally from Nigeria, in 2006 Lagunju was awarded the Phillip Ravenhill Fellowship by UCLA and moved across the Atlantic. His relocation exposed him to the roles western societies have played in the shaping of the African continent. Increasingly aware of the impact and legacy of slavery and racism, his works began to prefigure the #BlackLivesMatter movement. "It has led me along a path towards re-evaluating the purpose of my art… The social experiences I have encountered have made me rethink the purpose of art in itself and the role of the contemporary African artist.” - Wole Lagunju

W H E R E   T O   B U Y 

All but three of his large scale works have sold to major collectors in recent weeks. In September, Ed Cross Fine Art will also present a show of the artist’s fine, delicately coloured line drawings in ink on paper in London.  These represent an intelligent investment if you can get your hands on one.


Nico Kos Earle
Wole Lagunju

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