The National Arts Theatre is seen as the main center for performing arts in Nigeria. It is considered “an architectural masterpiece and a cultural landmark.” According to the official website of the National Arts Theatre, the theatre has the capacity to host up to 12 events at the same time. The National Arts Theatre has played host to international music concerts, dramas, film shows, symposia, exhibitions, workshops, and sports. It is considered a multi-purpose national monument, with its mission to be to preserve, present, and promote Nigerian arts and culture. The National Arts Theatre main hall has a seating capacity for 1500 persons and it has a conference hall that can also hold 1500 persons. There are exhibition halls, two cinema halls that each have a capacity of 700 persons, a VIP lounge and a roof garden. They also have the equipment for simultaneous translation of languages. Also located in the National Arts Theatre is the National Gallery of Modern Art, Lagos. The National Gallery of Art is a major art gallery located on two floors in the National Arts Theatre. The gallery features things such as abstract canvases by Bruce Onobrakpeya and bronze busts by Ben Osawe.
A few things in the mission of the National Arts Theatre include “to be a tourist attraction, to contribute to the economic vitality of our nation, while promoting Nigeria as a vibrant cultural destination, and to enhance the good image of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.” The National Arts is located in Iganmu, on the mainland area of Lagos. It began construction under the regime of Gen. Yakubu Gowon and was formally opened in the regime of Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo. The complex is 23,000 square meters in size and over 31 meters tall. There are some that say that the exterior of the theatre is shaped like a military hat. This can come from the fact that it was constructed under a military regime. While it is a fun idea, and maybe true, that the National Arts Theatre is just a giant military hat, the official website for the National Arts Theatre claims that the design for the theatre was taken from the Palace of Culture and Sports in Varna, Bulgaria and it was in fact a Bulgarian construction company that were the main constructors for the project. The National Arts Theatre first began being used in late 1975 but it was not formally opened until it was opened by Gen Olusegun Obasanjo in 1976, five months before FESTAC 77. The 2nd World Black African Festival of Arts and Culture, otherwiseknown as FESTAC, was an important event for the National Arts Theatre in its earliest years. The National Theatre hosted FESTAC in January/February of 1977.
The National Arts Theatre would eventually fell into disrepair as its facilities deteriorated. Franklin Ugobude, who wrote the article “Can the National Theatre Return To Its Glory?,” believes a failure to plan on behalf of the government was part of the reason. He writes that the government must have never thought of performing arts growing into what it has. Ndubisi Onwuanyi and Abiodun K. Oyetunji state that the National Arts Theatre and sites like it are made of materials that are prone to deterioration and therefore they require maintenance. This maintenance was not done. The federal government handed over the National Arts Theatre Complex to the Central Bank of Nigeria and the Banks under the aegis of the Banker’s Committee in order to begin renovations. The existence of the National Arts Theatre and its recent renovations shows that there is a strong commitment to the promotion and preservation of arts and culture in Nigeria. The existence of the National Arts Theatre shows that arts and culture in Nigeria is important and valued by the people of Nigeria. The National Arts Theatre contains an important history of meaningful events. The National Arts Theatre has even grown some standing in some recent international pop culture and on the international stage. A portion of Beyoncé’s Black is King was shot outside the National Arts Theatre. Black is King was viewed around the world.