Investec Cape Town Art Fair 2020 is on the horizon, and with it a fresh installment of the popular Tomorrows/Today platform, the section of the Fair dedicated to highlighting the practices of emerging and under-represented artists. In 2020 this will be co-curated by Nkule Mabaso (Curator, Michaelis Galleries, Cape Town) and Luigi Fassi (Artistic Director, MAN-Contemporary Art Museum, Nuoro, Italy). ArtThrob sat down with Nkule and Luigi to get the inside scoop.
ArtThrob: Over the years, Tomorrows/Today has become such a central focus and recurring highlight of the Investec Cape Town Art Fair. Why do you think this is?
Luigi Fassi: I think it is because Tomorrows/Today is an unpredictable platform within the fair, one where even established, cutting-edge and well traveled collectors come across artists they are not familiar with. In other words, it embodies the scopes of the fair as a research-based section that nurtures the will of Cape Town to offer a taylor-made fair full of high quality discoveries in terms of emerging artists and new works to discover.
Nkule Mabaso: The section introduces emerging artists and young galleries, and this shows a growing and vibrant cultural scene, so the interest grows and everyone has something to look forward to.
AT: For this fifth installment, you’ve really expanded the scope of the included artists.
NM: Yes, we stretched the definition of what it means to be emerging and so brought together instead artists that are doing interesting things and may not be well known and under appreciated artists who have a presence internationally but still marginal in South Africa etc.
LF: Our aim was to stick to the African roots of the section but at the same time extend the understanding of that by including galleries and artists that are close to an African identity even without being directly from Africa. This is for example the case of Andy Robert, an Haiti born and New York based Afro American artist. I think at this stage it is key for Tomorrows/Today to embrace diversity and keep expanding its research scope.
AT: Besides artists from across the African continent, you’ve also included ones from Australia, Haiti, France and Canada. Can you talk a bit about what you were looking for in the artists this year? What informed your selection?
LF: As mentioned, we wanted to embrace a larger focus, one able to include artists from Europe, North American and the Middle East. A key role within Tomorrows /Today is played then by the galleries that support the participating artists and we thought it is essential to have galleries also coming form different continent and areas that share a certain interest in South Africa as a growing art hub. This is the case of the United Arab Emirates, where a relatively young, emerging art market also looks at South Africa to network with.
NM: All the artists have a connection to Africa in the sense that through varying journeys they are part of the African Diaspora and this was behind our thinking of how do we define and limit the practices of a continent when a large number of the artists who are African are also in the diaspora.
AT: Are there any themes that carry across this diverse collection of artists? Is there a sense of shared interests and concerns among emerging artists?
NM: We did not enforced a thematic and did not looked to create one either.
LF: The section is not built predetermining thematic or narrative sectors and there are no ideological focus or privileged conceptual models to define its nature. Its architecture is given rather by the emerging force of the projects presented, which all bear witness to a critical and uncompromising urgency with regard to artistic work, capable of raising questions and reflections on the current changes underway in the world geopolitical scenario.
Tomorrows /Today is thus characterized as a hub, a place in which some decisive artistic achievements are intensively concentrated. As the title of the project suggests, between the now and the yet to come, or more precisely, to emphasize an anticipation of the future in the present.
AT: What does the term ‘Emerging Artists’ mean to you? What do you get from working with emerging artists that you don’t get from more established artists?
LF: In general, what you get from younger artists is a larger availability to share ideas ad also question yourself as an artist in dialogue with others. The working process can be more fluid and open.
NM: The term ’emerging’ does not have a standard accepted definition. What are the parameters that move an artist from being emerging to established? There is not really a reliable matrix so its not a term I like to use. I don’t know, all artists are people and I engage them all in the same way.
AT: What are the challenges and benefits of curating within the framework of an art fair?
NM: The specifications are rigid, but this is also useful for the the amount of time that the fair runs and the galleries and artists are excited to meet new audiences and financial markets.
LF: Art fairs are arenas of confrontations, kind of battlefields where within the very limited time span of just a few days all players involved (gallerists, artists, curators, collectors) aim to maximize their efforts and achieve certain results, bringing them visibility, sales or institutional contacts to work on on a longer term. Curating within such a time-compressed and tense framework is very different than curating in an institutional context. For example, you have to be aware of the very short attention span of visitors that are confronted with (and overwhelmed by) a huge offer of works and encounters. I personally very much like fairs precisely because of the occasions of encounters among professionals they offer and the chance to navigate throughout a vast and diverse scenario of artworks.
AT: How have you approached co-curating between South Africa (in Nkule’s case) and Italy (in Luigi’s)? What are some of the challenges and benefits of trans-continental curation?
LF: Me and Nkule never worked together before this opportunity and from the very beginning of the process towards Tomorrows/Today 2020 we created a mutual trust among ourselves that has helped us a lot to share ideas and overcome certain constraints in a smoother way. I think it’s because we have been both curious to get to know each other and learn from one another. I would definitely work again with her and I do look forward to making this happen by the next future.
NM: We called in Skype and Whatsapp and kept in touch via email; pretty standard stuff.
AT: Tomorrows/Today is positioned as somewhat of a springboard or career accelerator for emerging artists. If you had to only pick one or two, who are some of the artists in past years that have particularly flourished after their inclusion in the platform?
LF: I would mention Kyle Morland.
NM: I can’t say, also it’s definitely not one platform that will serve as the spring board, but a strategy of consistent work through multiple platforms.
Tomorrows/ Today 2020 will include:
Danica Lundy (Canada) | C+N Canepaneri Milan, Italy
Amanda Mushate (Zimbabwe) | First Floor Gallery Harare, Zimbabwe
Francois-Xavier Gbre (France) | Galerie Cecile Fakhoury Abidjan, Dakar and Paris, Ivory Coast; Senegal; France
Andy Robert (Haiti) | Hannah Hoffman Gallery Los Angeles, California
Fathi Hassan (Egypt) | Lawrie Shabibi Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Ernesto Shikhani (Mozambique) | Perve Galeria Lisbon, Portugal
Nnenna Okore (Australia) | Sakhile&Me Frankfurt, Germany
Gregory Olympio (Togo) | SEPTIEME Gallery Paris, France
Bonolo Kavula (South Africa) | Suburbia Contemporary Art Granada, Spain
Isabelle Grobler (South Africa) | Sulger-Buel Gallery London, United Kingdom