The consistent growth of the Investec Cape Town Art Fair from year to year has been quite something to behold, and the 2020 edition sees the fair expanding even further. Positioned as the leading art fair on the continent, ICTAF 2020 finds the fair growing its already impressive roster of local and international galleries by over a third. A significant inclusion of this next installment is the increased participation of galleries from the greater African continent, including Yosr Ben Ammar and AGorgi from Tunisia, Jahmek Contemporary Art from Angola, and Galerie Veronique Rieffel from Ivory Coast. The full list of exhibitors can be found here.
Laura Vincenti, the inimitable director of ICTAF, kindly sat down with ArtThrob to discuss these transcontinental dialogues further.
ArtThrob: 2020 has seen an increase in the number of North African galleries and artists participating in the Fair. Was that a concerted effort on the part of ICTAF to reach out, or did those galleries approach the fair?
Laura Vincenti: It is always a concerted effort on part of the Fair, the process to get galleries is always based on conversations, projects and initiatives around artist representation that can sometimes last for years. It is important for galleries across the board to locate the proper fair for their artists and in light of this we have had galleries approach us as an ideal platform to showcase their art and to interact with Africa’s booming art scene. So it’s an exciting time to a part of the Investec Cape Town Art Fair for those looking to immerse themselves in the world of contemporary African Art.
We’ve seen a large number of African galleries approach us because of our status as the leading international fair and this is because it is essential for them to engage in the wider art market, of which South Africa is much more established as compared to other regions on the continent. Investec Cape town Art Fair is an important meeting point for dialogue between African galleries and artists on the continent, we act as a vehicle to provide, promote and facilitate sustainable interaction between local and international artists, curators, collectors and galleries and the new participation of North African galleries strengthens one of the fair’s goals to provide a platform for more voices from the African continent.
AT: What are some of the challenges posed by transcontinental participation for Contemporary Art galleries in the broader continent? Do big art fairs such as ICTAF have a particular responsibility to ensure that participation is possible? What could be done to ensure representation?
LV: Art fairs always have the responsibility to ensure optimum participation for all their galleries. We go above and beyond to ensure that all of our galleries feel represented, we promote their programme locally and we help them network. We do our outmost best to ensure that we bring about awareness towards their programme pre and during the fair to ensure that we offer a smooth and unified presentation. That is a very important part of our job, to ensure a thriving and prosperous edition for all. The echo chamber, however between galleries located in different regions of the continent is a challenge that we are consistently trying to improve.
AT: ICTAF has been growing in leaps and bounds from year to year. Most importantly, it seems like the international galleries keep coming back, both those from the continent and beyond. What do you think it is that ICTAF is doing right?
LV: We don’t attempt to compete with African fairs or with established international fairs, we are mid-way between the two with a strong focus on African established and emerging art and a selection of the best international art. Local collectors are very supportive with local artists and they are also very intrigued by international galleries and international collectors who come to Cape Town to buy African art at a more competitive price in comparison with the European and American markets. We have been able over the years to create an intimate experience of one of the world’s most unique art capitals, personally connecting with local and international collectors and institutions and that is what collectors love, a deep and intimate experience to better understand the South African culture.
AT: Do you think that participation in international art fairs tends to be prioritised over continental ones for Contemporary Art galleries from Africa?
LV: Not really, those are two different markets and they pose different networking opportunities. Galleries in Africa are increasingly feeling the need to be part of a big, international event on the continent; it speaks to their sense of belonging.
AT: What do you see as the particular character of ICTAF in 2020? How do you see its standing on the continent and in the wider international art world?
LV: Investec Cape Town Art Fair is the leading and largest contemporary art fair on the African continent. Its strategic positioning in one of the world’s most beautiful cities that has a blend of many different and distinct vibrant cultures contributes to make Cape Town – and by extension Investec Cape Town Art Fair – a compelling destination for artists, curators, gallerists and collectors.
The fair is vested in encouraging dialogue between local and international galleries. Investec Cape Town Art Fair strives to creates a platform to facilitate Pan-African dialogue that takes into account the challenges facing emerging galleries on the continent outside of South Africa and to encourage collectors to buy outside of their comfort zone.
We attract an entirely unique mix of international and local galleries which continues to intrigue collectors and curators from around the world, which also allows local collectors and enthusiasts to access art that previously would only be seen by traveling outside of the continent. Investec Cape Town Art Fair has opened a dialogue that didn’t exist on this scale before, the fair places the best of the region’s art on the same platform as some of the biggest names in the global art scene, deservedly so.