Cape Town transforms into a cultural hub during art fair

“Local cultural institutions have adopted the month of February as the visual arts month, transforming Cape Town into a cultural hub”

– curator Tumelo Mosaka 

The 8th edition of the Investec Cape Town Art Fair (ICTAF) returns to the Cape Town Convention centre between 14th – 16th February.  As the largest contemporary art fair on the African continent, the ICTAF coalesces 107 exhibitors and amasses over 16 000 visitors. 

The fair is accompanied by a curated talks programme which brings together leading experts on a range of topics. Curator of the talks programme, Tumelo Mosaka elaborates, ‘The Talks program is very special for me as it is the space where dialogue about issues important in the art world can be engaged by various experts from within and outside the country. It offers an opportunity to introduce the public to some of the issues while also reflecting on others that might have been topical.’ He adds, ‘I’ve always approached the talks as a discursive platform aimed at broader dialogue about the state the arts field. For this year, we will explore arts philanthropy in Africa especially in light of all the new museums cropping up in Africa. Also the question of the role of museums has become a topical issue given issues around reparation and repatriation. Of course hearing from artists is always a treat, getting a glimpse into artists process as well as exploring the challenges of non-profit sector. So we have a lot to discuss that is important.

For the first time this year, the fair will include a film programme; ART.DOC. Staged at Cape Town’s oldest cinema, The Labia Theatre, ART.DOC will showcase a selection of films including; Billy Monk – Shot in the dark (directed by Craig Cameron-Mackintosh), Sue Williamson, It’s a pleasure to meet you (directed by Sue Williamson) and Imagining Simon Stone (directed by Michaela Limberis). 

Andy Robert, 720, 2019.

Running concurrently with the fair is a series of exciting exhibitions across the city; Materiality (group show) and This song is for… (Gabrielle Goliath) at the Iziko South African National Gallery, without a clear discernible image: Kevin Beasley at A4 Arts Foundation, stukkinne stories and The Royal House of Allure at blank projects, Carrie Mae Weems II Over Time at the Goodman Gallery as well as a Blue is the warmest colour at Bkhz studios’ pop-up exhibition space. 

Ernest Mancoba, Drawing , 1950

As with many fairs across the world, the Cape Town Art Fair’s organising logic is centred around commercial interests; presenting an opportunity for established and emerging artists to attract new audiences and gain access to markets. Over and above this, it has the potential to initiate new and interesting conversations or to bring forth ideas and discourse into the general consciousness. A key example of this is the (re)emergence, contemplations and complications of notions of modernity and modernism(s). As part of its presentation, Stevenson Gallery will present Ernst Mancoba’s ink and watercolour work; Drawing. This inclusion of Mancoba feels very pertinent and salient because of course, Mancoba’s practice is instructive in explorations of modernity. Stevenson will also present Mawande Ka Zenzile, pre-empting his upcoming solo; Udludlilali, which will open on the 12th of March. 

Mawande ka Zenzile, Ingethe, 2020

Another artist to look out for is Francois-Xavier Gbré (France), who is represented by Cecile Fakhoury Gallery. Gbré’s work is an exploration and revisitation of histories through the landscape where the past is understood as “foreign and unfinished”. Gbré is one of ten artists selected as part of the Tomorrows/Today special segment alongside; Danica Lundy (Canada), Amanda Mushate (Zimbabwe), Andy Robert (Haiti), Fathi Hassan (Egypt), Ernesto Shikhani (Mozambique), Nnenna Okore (Australia), Gregory Olympio (Togo), Bonolo Kavula (South Africa) and Isabelle Grobler (South Africa).  Tomorrows/Today is a curated segment of the fair, which acknowledges emerging artists —those who have previously gone unrecognised and those who are at the early stages of their careers. This year, it is curated by Nkule Mabaso (Curator, Michaelis Galleries, Cape Town) and Luigi Fassi (Artistic Director, MAN-Contemporary Art Museum, Nuoro, Italy).

Thandiwe Msebenzi, Egwaveni III, 2019

Thandiwe Msebenzi is also exhibiting with SMITH. Msebenzi explains the concept behind her work; “Egwaveni is a game I played as a child with my friends, we would sing “egwaveni” and touch or gesture towards our vagina, which we referred to as the “gwava”. This is a game we played freely and openly on the streets. It became interesting when we played it around men, it intimidated them and in turn there was a strength we gained in that as young girls. The work is part of a bigger body of work that looks at the intersectonality of gender binaries, told through memories, experiences, and childhood games.

Once again the city will vibrate and reverberate with art and art-related events during the long fair weekend.

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About the author

Nkgopoleng Moloi

I’m a writer and photographer based in Johannesburg. I am interested in the spaces we occupy and navigate through and how these influence the people we become. Writing is a tool I use to understand the world around me and to explore the things I am excited and intrigued by, particularly history, art, language and architecture. I am fascinated by cities; their complexities and their potential.

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