Fair Game: Investec Cape Town Art Fair

The 11th edition of the continent’s largest international contemporary art fair rolls out from 16 February at the CTICC. This year’s Investec Cape Town Art Fair (ICTAF) boasts with 115 exhibitors and over 40 international galleries exhibiting across the Main, ALT and several curated sections. We share some of the highlights.

First-time features will join the line-up of favourite talks, walkabouts, parties, tours and opportunities to explore the Mother City’s art ecosystem, including the Yawa Off White Capsule and Lukhanyo Mdingi collab (the first of its kind at the fair), the brand-new focus on ceramics and GENERATIONS, a debut section featuring cross-generational dialogues between artists.

For the first time, five emerging artists selected from twenty who have been through the City of Cape Town’s Emerging Artists Programme, will be represented by a dedicated booth curated by curator Igsaan Martin. Additionally, Bo Kaap is set to bind the city with an activation which speaks to the theme of Unbound.

Fired Up

‘Cabinet|Clay’ brings together a selection of ceramic works that showcase artists working with clay. From the refined work of master ceramicists such as Ian Garrett; those who embrace its potential to express contemporary feminist concerns, such as Frances Goodman; others who explore current evolutions of local heritage and traditional techniques, such as Madoda Fani, Chuma Maweni and Clive Sithole; and architect Michal Korycki, who engage with clay’s materiality and inherent ability to express form and construction. ‘Cabinet|Clay’ explores the modern embrace of this ancient medium.

Other artists include Amogelang Maepa, John Newdigate, Lisa Ringwood, Siyabonga Fani, Githan Coopoo, Jeanne Hoffman, King Houndekpinkou, Chuma Maweni, Louise Gelderblom and Geena Wilkinson.

A New Generation

‘Generations’ sets artists from different generations in dialogue with each other to create intergenerational conversations and engender a deeper understanding of both emerging and established voices.

By setting off interactions between a selection of 10 artists at different stages of their careers, this section aims to bring to light new insights into both evolving concerns that span generations as well as the jumps and discontinuities, intersections and departures. Curators Natasha Becker and Amogelang Maledu hope that such conversations will catalyse a more meaningful cultural relationship between past and present.

Participating artists include Esther Mahlangu (The Melrose Gallery) in conversation with Bonolo Kavula (SMAC Gallery), artists from Rorke’s Drift (Riaan Bolt Antiques) in conversation with Terence Maluleke (Southern Guild), Lulu Mhlana (Jonathan Carver Moore) in conversation with Sedireng Mothibatsela (Ora Loapi), Barry Salzman in conversation with Emme Pretorius (both IS Art Gallery), Kimathi Mafafo (EBONY/CURATED) in conversation with Ayobami Ogungbe (Rele Gallery).

What’s the ALTernative?

The popular ALT section returns with manifestations of emergent thinking and modes of practice that have broken away from the existing arts ecosystem to reveal the diverse, innovative and alternative artistic universe that exists in and around the continent.

There are fourteen exhibitors, which include the likes of 16 Lerotholi, Art Formes, artHARARE, Borna Soglo Gallery, Vela Projects and Untitled, who make up the lineup for ALT section.

The WALL explores the development of South African modernism with an overview of work from the 1940s to the recent past that disrupted traditional modes, challenged the art market and forged the foundations of contemporary art production.

This year’s presentation begins by exploring early shifts in the palettes of the works of the likes of Gregoire Boonzaier, George Pemba and Gerard Sekoto and progresses to a more radical rethinking of representational modes in the abstract work of Cecil Skotnes, Ezrom Legae, Lucas Sithole and Edoardo Villa. It traces the early ‘scapes’ of Kenneth Bakker through to the mystical icons of Larry Scully, Douglas Portway and Kevin Atkinson and the ‘hidden universe’ made visible by Karel Nel and culminates in the woven ‘spiritualist’ statements of Igshaan Adams.

The exhibition also weaves in the narrative approaches in a selection of works by Sam Nhelengethwa, Willie Bester, Peter Clarke, Cecil Skotnes, Robert Hodgins, Sydney Kumalo and Mary Sibanda, another key component of South Africa’s artistic heritage.

The meaningful, unconventional and original ways in which artists from Africa and the diaspora harness the expressive power of materials in contemporary art practice is nothing short of breathtaking, opening avenues of expression that can be difficult to categorise.

Fabric and textiles, as in the work of Zanoxolo Sylvester Mqeku and Sizwe Sama Sibisi, have become an important and widespread medium, as have various craft-based techniques such as Pierre Fouché’s lacework, and in others, wire sculpture and Zenaéca Singh, who works with molasses, sugar paste, panes of crystallised sugar and resin.

The use of found and discarded materials is multifaceted. Nicholas Hlobo and Tesprit’s use of sculpted rubber, is just one particularly powerful example. Chris Soal’s use of mundane objects such as toothpicks and bottle caps has the most unexpected results, and Usha Seejarim’s reinterpretations of ordinary and domestic objects such as safety pins, wooden pegs, irons and brooms are among the better-known artists using assemblage as a way of incorporating found objects into artworks. Laetitia Ky’s use of hair, for example, has become the basis of a unique methodology.

Documentary photography by the likes of Jürgen Schadeberg to contemporary masters of the medium such as Andrew Tshabangu, Guy Tillim, Jo Ractliff and Daniel Naudé are showcased through unique exhibitions.

Exciting newcomers like 21-year-old Sarfo Emmanuel Annor of Koforidua, Ghana, who uses his smartphone to revive the art of portraiture. The likes of Sabelo Mlangeni and Jabulani Dhlamini (and his protege Thembinkosi Hlatshwayo) keep the documentary tradition alive and well, while photography as a medium continues to spill over in other experimental media, as is the work of LegakwanaLeo Makgekgenene.

Many renowned multimedia artists include elements of photography in their work, not least images of the artists themselves in various guises by the likes of Mary Sibande, Thania Petersen and Nandipha Mnthambo. Ugandan photographer Ethel Aanyu does something similar. And everywhere, photography and video art combined with performance, assemblage and other multimedia forms.

The ongoing innovation through the medium of photography in contemporary art from Africa and the diaspora remains hugely significant and a burgeoning field of invention.

Bo-Kaap and Beyond

Among the events, a public art and urban intervention has been planned for the historic inner-city area of the Bo-Kaap, giving visitors a taste of how Cape Town has established itself as one of the most attractive and interesting art destinations in the world.

In the Bo-Kaap, two pop-up exhibitions hosted by international galleries, Galerie EIGEN + ART, will run for the duration of the Fair, from 10th to 18th February and Suburbia Contemporary, will run from 10th to 15th February. All participating Cape Town galleries will also be open with exciting exhibitions, tours and picnics taking place throughout the city. The Bo Kaap Museum will host a performance piece by Thania Petersen, accompanied by local dancers and musicians in a reimagining piece about the Cape’s history and the stories of its people.

The ever-popular talks, dialogues, conversations, debates, discussions and presentations by artists, curators, gallerists, academics, writers and collectors returns along with a daily programme of guided walkabouts.