You haven’t been overwhelmed by art until you’ve entered the Nike Art Center, a whopping five stories jam-packed with around 8,000 different pieces of artwork. The massive building, said to be the largest gallery in West Africa, is open to the public for free and regularly features a diverse legion of up-and-coming African artists alongside household names.
The center was founded by Nike Davies-Okundaye, who grew up steeped in her family’s culture of textile making, dyeing, weaving, and painting. She’s credited with teaching thousands of young Nigerian artists over the last 40 years, as well as providing exhibition space for showing works.
Located outside of Lagos proper in the suburb of Lekki, the Nike Art Gallery is akin to a maze once you leave the first floor, which beyond sculpture and paintings includes a visitor’s desk and several couches arranged for guests’ comfort, with wine on offer. The next four floors are covered nearly floor-to-ceiling in canvases of all sizes, interspersed with sculptures, beading work, and textile art. Visitors won’t find a section where a single artist is featured solo, rather works are spread across the gallery no matter the prominence of the artist—Davis-Okundaye included. The higher you ascend, the less the air conditioning reaches, so be warned as you access the top rooms, which can be especially stuffy when electricity is down.
Photography is only allowed with visitors in the frame, so don’t snap pictures of the artwork by itself. Tour guides are highly recommended to learn about the art on display, and generally operate on a tip basis. Group tours, however, are priced depending on size. Unlike many museums, all the artwork you see is for sale at price points that range from a few hundred dollars to more than $20,000.
A shop on the gallery property also offers handmade jewelry, bags, textiles, clothing, and accessories. Dancers are often present onsite and perform traditional Yoruba dances for visitors. Lucky visitors may even get a chance to meet personally with Davies-Okundaye, who works out of the gallery.
Know Before You Go
Put aside at least two hours to visit the gallery for a full experience. Art buyers have historically had difficulty with international credit card purchases, but PayPal has worked, and cash is accepted. The gallery is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day except Sunday, when hours are 1 p.m. to 6 p.m.
There are no elevators, so the gallery is not wheelchair accessible beyond the first floor.