Vol. 8 (Create) – Autumn 2023

The power of a platform

With the Investec Cape Town Art Fair celebrating their tenth anniversary this year, we asked contributing art editor, Zanele Kumalo, to investigate the opportunity created by art fairs in South Africa

Above left to right Charity Vilakazi, Ukukhula ngo’umuntu, 2022, Kalashnikovv Gallery. Buhlebezwe Siwani, Isikhumbuzo, 2021, Madragoa. Malebona Maphutse, Siyagoduka. Arrival (Rise and Shine), 2021, THIS IS NOT A WHITE CUBE GALLERY.

If art is a reflection of the times in which we live, then art fairs offer a unique perspective and context through the galleries and institutions they invite to participate or accept for exhibition. They create a broad and considerable platform for artists and curators (especially newer exhibitors) to expose their work and practice. They also curate an experience for collectors, specialists, media and enthusiasts to consume, question, exchange and commune.

For those who are limited to the accounts they follow or subscribe to, or by the frequency and locations they are able to choose for gallery hops and studio visits, the opportunity to lean into different bodies of work is what brings tens of thousands of visitors to our local art fairs. In South Africa, while the title of the oldest contemporary gathering goes to FNB Art Joburg, the honour of the largest belongs to the Investec Cape Town Art Fair (ICTAF). Auspiciously, ICTAF celebrates its tenth anniversary this year and has chosen to explore the notion of time. Separating the concept of change, ideas around preservation and decomposition, cycles and seasons, progression and inertia, is a tricky exercise, which mushrooms when we talk about the passage of time.

Touching on progression, it’s exciting to note the wealth of new artists at the fair. Some of the Black South African women who are included at different rungs of critical and commercial acclaim include Natalie Paneng – Galerie EIGEN + ART Leipzig/Berlin; Charity Vilakazi – Kalashnikovv Gallery; Buhlebezwe Siwani – Madragoa; Malebona Maphutse – This Is Not A White Cube Gallery; Senzeni Marasela – Galerie Eric Dupont; Lerato Shadi – blank projects; and Zandile Tshabalala – BKhz. 

Above left to right Talia Ramkilawan, An Ode Not to her, but to me, 2020, BkHz. Zizipho Poswa, uBuhle boKhokhoStyle 06, 2022, photography by Hayden Phipps,
courtesy of Southern Guild/BMW. Zandile Tshabalala, Within silence III: swirling thoughts swirling sheets, 2022, BkHz.

Lara Koseff and Londi Modiko, co-founders of The Independent Network for Contemporary Culture & Art (INCCA), recently reported for marketplace Latitudes Online that based on a data study they conducted in which they examined ‘the artist rosters of South African galleries featured at art fairs in Johannesburg and Cape Town over the past two years’, Black women continue to feature minimally in contemporary art programmes, making up less than 10% of artists represented by SA galleries’.

It’s part of a legacy underscored by the need for exhibitions such as ‘When Rain Clouds Gather: Black South African Women Artists, 1940–2000’, curated by Portia Malatjie and Nontobeko Ntombela at Norval Foundation, which featured 40 Black women artists and only recently closed after running for a year. Cultural institutions such as Norval ‘nurture and support artistic production in the region through exhibitions and artist residencies’, and are key augmentations to a fair.

At this tenth edition of ICTAF, I’m looking forward to engaging with all channels to create space and support for new voices and advance those more seasoned. 

Above left to right Amogelang Maepa, Let The Church Say, Amen!, 2021, Berman Contemporary. Richard Mudariki, Reading the Fake News Times, 2019, Barnard Gallery.
Natalie Paneng, Phoenix stance, We Are Culture exhibition at the Standard Bank Gallery, photography by Paul Shiakallis.

The 10th Investec Cape Town Art Fair will take place from 17 to 19 February 2023, at the Cape Town International Conference Centre from 11am to 7pm. Tickets can be purchased via the Webtickets

Visit www.investeccapetownartfair.co.za for more information or follow @investeccapetownartfair.