Hot topic of last month was the Joburg Art Fair, held for the first time ever. Did it, or did it not fulfil expectations? Most people agreed that the fair had been well staged - the quality of the work was high, and by art fair standards, the spaces generous. Putting its commercial intentions right up front, the invitations described the opening night event somewhat brashly as a 'pre-emptive buying opportunity' rather than the more discreet 'collectors' preview' but after all, one might say, buying is what art fairs are all about. Art fairs present the work galleries hope will sell, rather than, as at an exhibition, presenting a curatorial point of view.
But by and large it was a success. It was great to have the presence of the overseas galleries like Jack Shainman and Perry Rubinstein from New York. Sales of between R24 and R30 million were racked up by the galleries, the Gerard Sekoto self-portrait, highlight of the fine Michael Stevenson-curated show of 20th century African painting, apparently selling for R5 million. International television coverage included CNN and German news channels. The viewing spaces were busy most of the time, with performances by amongst others Avant Car Guard. And there is no doubt that the whole event will have a trickledown effect, raising the general knowledge of the public about art in South Africa a notch or two. For the full scoop on the Art Fair read new Johannesburg editor Cara Snyman's special feature and her interview with Simon Njami, who curated a show in the central space of the exhibition hall, entitled 'As You Like It' .Carol Brown reports back on the event in a News story as well.
NEXT UPDATE: May 11.
As gallerists return sated from the selling frenzy of the Joburg Art Fair, artists in Cape Town are quietly uncovering a topography of hidden narratives, providing a welcome counterpart to the brash 'master narrative' of an Art Fair. Jean Brundrit and Zanele Muholi bring to light 'A Lesbian Story' at the AVA, and Sanell Aggenbach dissects the truth value of photographs at João Ferreira. Brett Murray interrogates the African Renaissance at the Goodman Cape.
Far from lying low after the Joburg Art Fair, Johannesburg galleries hit the ground running. In a month largely dedicated to photography, David Goldblatt follows Tracey Rose at the Goodman Gallery, Santu Mofokeng opens at Johannesburg Art Gallery and Art Extra shows Youssef Nabil. Artspace brings Capetonian Fritha Langerman north and Bell-Roberts opens an exciting new space in downtown Johannesburg with Cara van der Westhuizen. Artist Proof Studio holds a fundraising print auction.
Durban is buzzing during April with a full programme, ranging from stalwarts Andrew Verster and Aidan Walsh at the KZNSA, to newcomers to the Durban environment Bongi Bengu and Johannes Maswanganyi at Kizo Gallery. Both the DAG and the DUT are showing new acquisitions and, after the flurry of buying at the Joburg Art Fair, it will be interesting to see what the beleagured institutions have managed to acquire over the past few years.
The US features strongly in this month's International Listings with Guy Tillim and Pieter Hugo taking part in 'Presumed Innocence' in Massachusetts, Zanele Muholi, Senzeni Marasela, Nandipha Mntambo, Penny Siopis and Berni Searle on 'Black Womanhood' at the Hood Museum in New Hampshire, and Esther Mahlangu and Sean Slemon both presenting solo shows in New York City.
Cara Snyman analyses the successes and failures of the Joburg Art Fair, concluding that it is 'a brave step towards making art in South African bankable', asserting its value for the future of the market in South Africa. She also spoke to Simon Njami, curator of the Fair's 'As you like it', about art, society, politics and commerce in South Africa. His responses are open and candid, and he doesn't shy away from criticising his host country.
Katharine Jacobs reviews Nicholas Hlobo's 'Kwatsiykw'iziko' at Michael Stevenson, proposing that a 'tactile aesthetics' affords a viewer a way into the work that an intellectual approach may not. She lauds his dogged use of untranslated isiXhosa titles, hoping at the same time that an isiXhosa-speaking critic will take up the challenge of exploring Hlobo's layered, nuanced, textured use of verbal language. Dale Yudelman's 'I am... ' presents images of personal advertisments placed on community notice boards by migrants from Central and Southern Africa, juxtaposed these with iconic images from our cities. He opens our eyes both to the struggles and hardships of refugees, as well as to their resilience. Nathalie Rosa Bucher reviews. You won't be surprised to find that Ed Young was unimpressed with the 'Fresh Meat' painting show at whatiftheworld / Gallery. You will be surprised to find him taking pops at some of his best friends. Or maybe you won't. Lloyd Pollock reviews Minnette Vári's solo outing at Goodman Gallery Cape. In his dense, descriptive review of an equally dense and layered, exquisitely crafted show, Pollock concludes that 'Vári poses the perennial questions but her answers are dark and sibylline poetic pronouncements'.
Accompanying the Joburg Art Fair was 'As you like it', a show curated by Simon Njami, based on the premise that a work is at its 'purest singularity' before any agent, museum, critic or dealer has laid eyes on it. Jacki McInnes is less than convinced of the works he has chosen here, but agrees on the importance of entertaining such a notion. The Unyazi 'Festival of extreme listening' founds its curator (and performer) James Webb focusing on the spatialisation of sound, centralising the role of the listener. Andrew Smith attended the evening, immersing himself in performances and collaborations by several local and international musicians and sound artists.
Brenton Maart reviews Paul Edmunds' 'Aggregate' at Bank Gallery. Aside from the artist's concern with geometry, sculpture and design, Edmunds develops 'complexity by the introduction of the conundrum of the fourth dimension', he contends. Well established painter Bongi Bengu shares her first outing in KwaZulu-Natal, province of her birth, with sculptor Collen Maswanganyi who hails from Giyani in Limpopo. Despite the immediate differences in their work, the two evidence a shared interest in their commentary on contemporary life. Carol Brown reviews their show at Kizo Gallery.
Carol Brown reports back on the Joburg Art Fair, and Michele Horwitz writes about her experience at the eleventh Design Indaba held last month in Cape Town. Mikhael Subotzky receives another accolade, this time the International Center of Photography's Young Photographer Award. Carol Brown writes about the Umcebo Trust's latest developments.
Dak'Art 2008 announces its official selection of exhibiting artists. Across the water, the latest artist to produce an installation in the Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall has been announced.
Beefs, booze and big talk. Yes, it's Ed Young's diary!
Applications are invited for Cape Africa Platform's 'Young Creatives Programme', the KZNSA 2008 Critical Writer's Workshop and Seminar Series takes place once again, and Sasol New Signatures Art Competition invites entries.
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