When Adenrele Sonariwo returned to Lagos, Nigeria, in 2010 after studying curating in the UK, she began to haunt the art scene, but felt something was missing. “I didn’t see myself reflected in [the exhibitions]. There were so many stories that were lacking within the space at that time.” While music and films reflected Nigeria’s large young population, the visual arts catered to an older generation. Sonariwo wanted to bridge the gap by broadening the art scene to include more contemporary work by young artists. “For me young people are the heartbeat of any nation [and] we have a very vibrant youth population in Nigeria.”
‘Babatunde’ (2022) by Neec Nonso © Courtesy the artist and Rele Gallery
After hosting an art salon at home, a conversation with other cultural producers developed into an event-based collaboration, showcasing affordable artworks to a younger audience who might not have collected before. In 2015, following five years of pop-ups, Sonariwo started her gallery, Rele, which will be appearing in Art Basel’s OVR:2021 this week.
The daughter of an influential — her late father was the 18th Akarigbo of Remo, the traditional ruler of 33 towns in Ogun state — Sonariwo was exposed to visual art from a young age. She spent a number of years living in the US, having left Lagos to study at Howard University and worked as an accountant for PwC, but felt drawn to the arts, so changed course and headed to the University of the Arts in London.