Cape Town Art Fair: From local to global
“For a city to be a great destination for contemporary art, there are five key requirements,” says Mark Coetzee, Executive Director and Chief Curator of the new Zeitz MOCAA, which is set to open its doors to the public this September. “Galleries, collectors, a good art school, an art museum and a great art fair.”
And the Cape Town Art Fair seems to have established itself as that fifth key element. Since its first edition in 2013 the fair has doubled in size going from 40 (mostly local) to more than 80 local and international exhibitors. The fair has definitely shifted from a very local focus, to include a broader selection of African artists and galleries from around the globe. Apart from the big local names, like Stevenson, Goodman, and MOMO, more than 20 international galleries, including Galleria Continua, October Gallery and Galerie Caroline Smulders, are also participating in this year’s edition.
Sandile Zulu, Paraphernalia of the Desert Shaman - Deliverance and Healing. (2017) Image Courtesy SMAC Gallery.
“It’s great to see the fair growing in scale each year,” says David Brodie, Director of Stevenson in Johannesburg. “Fairs make art accessible to people who wouldn’t necessarily come to galleries or museums,” he says “... and this is a world class fair for any city, not just for Cape Town”.
In a press statement, the fair’s new curator, the New York-based South African Tumelo Mosaka, agrees that the CTAF has gained considerable momentum in establishing Cape Town as a major contemporary art destination.
“This is an exciting moment for art, not just in South Africa but globally, as we seek to expand the impact and importance of Cape Town Art Fair.”
For local galleries, the fair remains a fantastic opportunity to engage with international collectors, like blank projects who reported strong sales figures on opening night, including sales of two works by Igshaan Adams, entitled “Shahada II (part 1 & 2)” which are gorgeous beaded works incorporating cotton twine, fabric dye and metal wire.
Igshaan Adams, “Shahada II (part 1 & 2)". Courtesy Blank Projects Gallery.
Mosaka insists that the fair not only provides commercial opportunities for galleries, but that it continues to be an opportunity for locals to engage with contemporary art, as when it set out to reshape the contemporary art landscape in the Mother City five years ago. One of the new features at this year’s edition is a presentation entitled “Unframed”, which features large-scale installations and sculptures by South African artists and encourages visitor engagement. Think human carwash and a bouncy castle for adults and you’ve got the right picture.
“We wanted to engage the public a little differently, wanted people to experience works that are larger than the traditional white booth”
And even though a prolific OFF-scene, a staple at other well-established art fairs globally, is still missing from the CTAF, there are signs of an awakening. This year the Woodstock Art Night will see local galleries in the city’s contemporary art hub open their doors to the public for one night during the fair, showcasing exhibitions and performances in addition to their offerings at the main event.
The Tomorrows/Today section, curated by Mosaka and showcasing solo presentations by some of the most exciting emerging artists from Africa and the diaspora, is a showcase of where the fair is headed.
Kenyan artist Onyis Martin’s (ARTLabAfrica) presentation is deeply connected to contemporary urban practice, and explores questions of human trafficking, migration and displacement. His series Talking Walls collages disparate images, superimposing them with thick layers of acrylic paint and creating wire-mesh, impenetrable backgrounds.
Onyis Martin, Untitled. Image courtesy of ARTLabAfrica.
At Sabrina Amrani, Joël Andrianomearisoa’s conceptual tapestries and manipulated frames is hauntingly provocative, while at SMAC gallery, South African artist Sandile Zulu’s Body & Soul, Movement & Site combines sculptural pillars – suggestive of urban structures and his signature scorched canvases, with a selection of found objects and ornaments from his studio.
Maurice Mbikayi’s (Gallery MOMO) installations recontextualizes remnants of technology like old computer keyboards, which have become obsolete, to investigate how technology influences our world. It is a fascinating inquiry into the effects that technological advances have had on the culture and natural environment of the continent.
Installation view of Joël Andrianomearisoa's solo show at Sabrina Amrani's booth at Cape Town Art Fair. Courtesy Sabrina Amrani.