Joburg Art Fair | A decade of art in Johannesburg
This year Joburg Art Fair is returning to Johannesburg’s Sandton Convention Centre, where it will celebrate its first ten years of existence. We spoke to fair producer Nicole Siegenthaler about Joburg Art Fair’s decade in the business.
What’s changed over the last ten years?
Since its inaugural edition in 2008, the organizers of Joburg Art Fair have launched the FNB Art Prize, (2011) and the fair has an overall curatorial focus now. Joburg Art Fair also features a focus on one artist each year, and for its tenth edition it’ll celebrate the work of Robin Rhode, who was also showcased during Joburg Art Fair’s first edition.
How are the FNB Art Prize laureates faring?
Like several fellow art fairs, the Joburg Art Fair has launched a prize in 2011 — the FNB Art Prize, whereby participating galleries put forward the work of one of their artists. This year, the prize was awarded to artist Peju Alatise, who is represented by gallery Art 21 Lagos. The jury was composed of Performa founder and director RoseLee Goldberg, South African collector Pulane Kingston and fair producer Nicole Siegenthaler.
As far as past laureates are concerned, certain have witnessed significant progress in their careers, with some having had their work featured in prominent international exhibitions. Past awardees include Turiya Magadlela — represented by blank projects — (2015) whose work was on show at Jack Shainman gallery (New York) earlier this year, or Kudzanai Chiurai — represented by Goodman Gallery (2012) whose work featured in the exhibition Art/Afrique, Le Nouvel Atelier at Paris’ Fondation Vuitton. Portia Zvavahera — represented by Stevenson — (2014) had her work on show at Los Angeles-based gallery Marc Foxx.
South Africa’s biggest gallery seem to have most of the winning artists on their rosters. Four out of eight awardees were represented by Goodman Gallery, whilst the others have collaborated with blank projects, Stevenson gallery — two of South Africa’s local mega galleries — Bailey Seippel Gallery or Art 21 Lagos.
Sethembile Msezane — GALLERY MOMO
Local or international?
“For us it’s essential to balance both local and international.” says fair producer Nicole Siegenthaler. “However, it is equally important to let our local community shine — collaborations such as the Film Programme in Nelson Mandela Square with the Centre for the Less Good Idea are what make the Fair special for both our international and local visitors. I think both are equally important to an art fair — you don’t have one side without the other. If we didn’t highlight our city, our artists, our community, all of the aspects that set Joburg apart from any other African or international city, it would be pretty boring.”
Athi-Patra Ruga, HOMELANDS AS UBHACO (TKEI) (2017) — WHATIFTHEWORLD Gallery
In terms of sales
“We saw a big leap in sales at the Fair between 2015 and last year and I believe it is also due to our galleries growing themselves — more and more of our exhibitors are participating in more art fairs and in turn growing their businesses — they are art fair savvy and are really using the art fair platform to its fullest potential with a better understanding of the audience each year.” continues Siegenthaler. “There are also collectors that are particularly interested in supporting a particular social group such as black and/or female artists, artists dealing with gender politics, or artists working in particular mediums.”
Bronwyn Katz, Groei grond (2017) — blank projects
Nelmarie Du Preez — from left to right: to shoot, (2016), Dual-channel video with sound, 1’ 05”, Shot (2016), Giclée on cotton rag paper, 130 x 90cm , Edition of 3 + 1 AP , to activate (2016). Single-channel video with binaural sound, Duration: 4'00".— ROOM Gallery
Rowan Smith, POST-END-NOTHING-FUCK, OR THE POSTCOLONY (2017) — WHATIFTHEWORLD Gallery
Text: Henri Robert