Rele Gallery to Open New Space in London

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Rele Gallery

Rele Gallery has set its sights on one of the world’s foremost culture capitals — London. Already, the gallery has two established outposts in major world capitals, Lagos in Nigeria and Los Angeles in the U.S.A.

Rele means “going home” in Yoruba, a sentiment of national pride that Adenrele Sonariwo wants to cultivate through engaging and promoting African Art. Since opening her Lagos gallery in 2015, Rele Gallery has focused on bridging the art gap across continents by representing emerging African and diaspora artists. 

The Nigerian art curator has always planned to expand territories. In 2021, Sonariwo opened an outpost in Los Angeles. Even after its opening, she was already looking at London, and it was only a matter of timing. Her desire to expand was showcased in the Gallery’s move from Onikan to Ikoyi — a hotspot for commercial galleries in Lagos. Similarly, the Rele’s outpost in Los Angeles moved from Melrose Avenue to a new space on N Western Avenue, a new gallery district popularized by David Zwirner, a German art dealer and owner of the David Zwirner gallery in New York. 

So, it’s unsurprising that her newest base will be in Mayfair, a district with a thriving population of flagship galleries. London is not new to Sonariwo, she studied at the University of Arts in London. On returning to Lagos in 2010, she felt something was amiss within the art space and sought to change that. Rele Gallery has done an excellent job of giving Sonariwo national and international acclaim and visibility. In 2017, she was selected as co-curator at the Venice Biennale for Nigeria’s first pavilion. 

With many African galleries (Jack Bell, Ed Cross, Tiwani Contemporary) in London, the U.K. capital holds great potential for the Rele brand. Major art events like 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair, the first international art fair dedicated to contemporary art from Africa and its diaspora, are held there. The fair attracts many local and foreign art collectors yearly, and Nigerian artists were present at the last edition. Former director of Gallery 1957, Alessandra Olivi, says, “London is one of the most vibrant scenes internationally, thanks to the presence of a growing number of dedicated galleries and of course 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair.” She adds that she’s excited to see how Rele can contribute to this thriving art scene. 

Rele Gallery’s first show in London (Mayfair) will exhibit new works by Peju Alatise, an artist whom Sonariwo claims Rele is unofficially representing. A fully represented artist, Marcellina Akpojotor, will also have a show in April. Although Rele Gallery’s artists are majorly based in Africa, Sonariwo plans to have shows where artists in Africa and the diaspora can converse with each other. To put this in place, her next exhibition in the U.S. will feature artists from Kenya, Korea, and Nigeria. She also has similar plans for London.

The new Rele gallery will open on Dover Street on February 22 and span approximately 3000 square feet, over two floors. The gallery is set to be directed by Alessandra Olivi.