in collaboration with Investec Cape Town Art Fair

Art Unbound

Volume 12 (Reframe), Autumn 2023

House and Leisure Contributing Art Editor, Zanele Kumalo, reflects on the theme of this year’s Investec Cape Town Art Fair

Above Kamyar Bineshtarigh, Studio Wall XII, 2023, Southern Guild

‘The real question is: what is being said with the art?’ That handful of words from Folakunle Oshun, the director of the Lagos Biennial, is a rallying cry. Oshun shared it with Artsy as part of a feature asking a group of curators to predict trends that will define 2024. Throughout the piece, he reiterated the opportunity and imperative for the art world to give more room to the ‘sticky’ issues and to the artists and communities who have something to say, but who have not been given the platform on which to say it.

Because the world is currently powered and, in some instances paralysed, by the wealth of geopolitical, social and environmental crises, whether they appear in the foreground or background of daily routines, we often rely on artists for new perspectives and insights, new ways of engaging, and moments of respite and escape.

This year, Investec Cape Town Art Fair’s curatorial theme ‘Unbound’ points to the same urgency and potential to encourage these new ideas. The city is one of the most beautiful playgrounds to visit in the world, but also has real work to do to reckon with inequity, inequality and segregation. In response, its art fair has committed to giving the mic to emerging voices, risk-takers, those with dissenting opinions, those who have been disregarded, and concepts that are non-traditional and unconventional.

Within the sprawling glass box of the Cape Town International Convention Centre that holds the fair’s booths annually, four sections are designated for this purpose this year: Inhabiting the Wild, the 2024 edition of Tomorrows/ Today, curated by art advisor Dr Mariella Franzoni; Loopholes in the Walls of Darkness (the SOLO section), curated by Cape Town-based writer Sean O’Toole; Generations, co-curated by San Francisco based curator Natasha Becker and Cape Town-based researcher Amogelang Maledu; and ALT, which presented young projectspaces such as 16 on Lerotholi in Langa. Tomorrows/ Today offers an award and cash prize to an emerging or underrepresented artist from 12 solo project shows with the highest quality presentation. Previous winners include Talia Ramkilawan, Michaela Younge and Troy Makaza.

Above Jeanne Gaigher, The Sieve as Secrecy, 2023, Osart Gallery. Ghada Amer, MY BODY IS MINE, 2023, Goodman Gallery. Chrisél Attewell, Refractions: Smoke and Water, 2023, Berman Contemporary. Wallen Mapondera, Cemetery Plan Overview, Detail 1, 2023, SMAC.

Beyond that container, the art crowd’s spotlight turns to the cobbled streets of Bo-Kaap, which was built two-and-half centuries ago, and is home to the oldest mosque in the country. Suburbia Contemporary pops up in the neighbourhood with an exhibition titled Ifestile, presenting work intended to focus attention on the ‘unique aspects of every day’. Artist Thania Petersen hosts two half-hour performances to ‘reimagine the history of the Cape’. With vibrantly painted houses to celebrate freedom from ownership and as markers of their agency, a community once at the fringe continues to fight gentrification and displacement.

In the same Artsy piece, independent curator Diana Nawi says: ‘Artists will always be harbingers of the world to come, and all the more so those sounding the alarms for the increasingly deteriorating present.’

Between the galas and other gatherings, as visitors and residents pound Cape Town’s pavements along with the rest of the city, what will be said with the art will surely unlock new paths for more of us to become unbound.

Above Troy Makaza, Untwisting The Fantasy, 2023, First Floor Gallery Harare. Talia Ramkilawan, I’d spend everyday with you/ If it’s enough to make you mine, 2022, WHATIFTHEWORLD. Thania Petersen, Raak Wys, 2022, SMAC. Michaela Young, A haven for the restless, 2022, SMAC. Below Mary Sibande Detail, 2022, SMAC.

Get your tickets for Investec Cape Town Art Fair

Friday 16 to Sunday 18 February
Cape Town International Convention Centre