How a Nigerian hyper-realist painter became a social media phenomenon

Quartz africa
Quartz africa

Two weeks ago, few Nigerians had heard little about Oresegun Olumide, a 35-year old Lagos artist who specializes in oil paintings. Since the start of the week though, his story and life, has changed. Oresegun’s life-like art, which he describes as ‘hyper reality’, has gone viral across various social media platforms leaving many in awe.

Oresegun studied fine art at the Yaba College of Technology in Lagos and began painting professionally in 2008. In 2011 he held his first exhibition at a gallery in Ikorodu, a densely populated town in Lagos. Impressed by his work, the gallery hosted his second exhibition in 2014.

Having taken a break from public exhibitions to prepare for his third exhibition this year, Olumide decided to share two new paintings on his Facebook page last weekend. The impact was scarcely believable. Images of his work have been shared over 50,000 times on Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat and has trended worldwide. Though it is likely his work has been shared much more times by users taking images off his Facebook page. His Instagram page, which had only 800 followers before he uploaded his new pieces, has also gained 27,000 new followers. “I am excited because I did not expect it.” he told Quartz.

A painting from Oresegun's new collection which has gained him social media fame.
A painting from Oresegun’s new collection which has gained him social media fame. (Oresegun Olumide.)


A painting from Oresegun's new collection.
A painting from Oresegun’s new collection. (Oresegun Olumide)

“I had not uploaded any images for a while as I was preparing for my next exhibition. Last week, I decided to share one of my new works to show people what to expect from new showcase and it began to get shared rapidly. I got compliments and within days, it went viral,” he said.
Oresegun’s art has been noticed beyond social media as well. Within the past week, he says he has received offers to host his next exhibition in the United Kingdom and the United States of America.


“The only time I used social media previously was when I needed to share images of my work but now I can see the power of social media and I plan to use it more.”

Oresegun has priced most of his pieces at a base price of around 200,000 naira ($1,000) but it is likely that the fame created by social media and international media coverage like CNN will see those prices shoot up.

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