Investec Cape Town Art Fair
18.02 - 21.02.2022
The 2022 edition of Investec Cape Town Art Fair rolls into town next week, during which the convention centre will be transformed into a hustling, bustling ball of energy around which various satellites – including solo shows, pop-ups and parties – orbit. We asked our writers to wade through many marvels that compete for attention and report back what they were most looking forward to this year.
A few artists’ names came up. Olga Speakes is looking forward to Brett Seiler’s solo presentation at the fair. “There are a number of critical conversations taking place around figurative painting. His practice, which is somewhat broader than painting, does not, perhaps, immediately come to mind in this context. Yet, it will be interesting for me to see what perspectives his work may contribute.”
Aviwe Plaatjie, a painter exhibiting with EBONY/CURATED has captured Annabelle Wienand’s attention. “His meticulously painted portraits appear to capture friends recording podcasts or listening to music, but could equally be stills from a film and thus suggest a collision of aspiration and lived experience. Plaatjie’s subjects rarely acknowledge the viewer and seem entirely absorbed in the unfurling of the conversation or the track that has their attention. This inwardness creates a tension in the works, but most notable is the care and tenderness evident in the paintings.”
Tim Liebbrandt says he always does a “double take” when he comes across Mongezi Ncaphayi’s work. “I suspect it’s in the shrewd interplay between the vibrant linework and the watercolour washes beneath that make his pieces so deceptively captivating, Ncaphayi has a knack for composition that sucks you in.” He also said Dada Khanyisa’s “phenomenal new work” was “definitely going to be a fair highlight as well, essential viewing ‘in the flesh.’ Hooray for a return to physical fairs!”
Misha Krynauw is another writer looking forward to seeing artworks in person. “The process and experience of navigating the digital space from the vantage point of artists and institutions has been educational and exciting thus far,” they say, “but, there is nothing better than physically being there, being able to approach and be closer to that particular thing that catches your eye – for a reason.” They are also “very much looking forward to collective space-making for underrepresented art, artists and conversation.”
It’s true that the art fair is not just a show of the galleries’ best. The ALT section, a new addition to the ICTAF line-up, will showcase non-traditional modes of exhibition, while the TOMORROWS/TODAY section, curated by Nkule Mabaso and Luigi Fassi, focuses on artists young and up-and-coming. Nkgopoleng Moloi finds Mabaso and Fassi’s “curatorial method of slow navigation and intense looking very compelling.” Georgia Munnik is looking forward to Mavis Tauzeni’s solo presentation in the section: “Her paintings read as earnest and therefore quite original and refreshing for me. Weirdly reminiscent of a hand-drawn customised high school workbook cover, complete with stencils of butterflies and young lovers kissing; her paintings also allude to another sinister dimensionality. Harsh lines and denser moments in her paintings are redeemed by softer allusions to light which could equally be breaking through the trees of a dense rainforest or, from the lid of a dustbin onto the scene below.”
Philiswa Lila is another artist exhibiting a solo in TOMORROWS/TODAY, and Barnabas Ticha Muvhuti is “excited about what she does with the family photo archive and the idea of memory.” He is also looking forward to the Cultural/Platforms section. “Enormous effort goes into the work of nurturing artistic production done by institutions like the Zeitz MOCAA museum (Cape Town), Bag Factory (Johannesburg), and Village Unhu (Harare). It would be nice to see and experience what they are bringing to this year’s edition of the ICTAF.”
Muvhuti makes a great point about the fair itself as an experience to look forward to: “I had only been inside the Cape Town International Convention Centre during the previous editions of the ICTAF. I remember walking into a transformed space in October, as the venue had been converted into a vaccination site. As this edition of the art fair draws near, I cannot stop thinking of how those who received their jabs in the same space will feel walking back into it.” No doubt some combination of relief and frenzy.
Lucienne Bestall remembers this frenzy with fondness, saying that her favourite booth at ICTAF 2020 was “very nearly empty.”
It wasn’t a conceptual gesture or a statement against conspicuous consumption – the intended artworks simply didn’t arrive. They got held up, I believe, at customs, and so the foreign gallerist had to make do with sticking up small images of the missing works onto the otherwise bare walls. Even the printouts felt defeated (copier paper, cheap printing job, tape applied imperfectly)… The outstanding (by which I mean absent) works were, if I remember correctly, obscure paintings of some sort, and perhaps better served in their unintended medium – how much more curious a scrappy document than a canvas at an art fair! All this is to say, what I am most looking forward to at this year’s event are those accidental and incidental moments that appear as a happy blemish on the fair’s white-walled facade.
The art fair, Bestall suggests, is a place where we arrive with dreams and are met with a few disappointments. We suspect this might be the case for Ashraf Jamal who reported that he was looking forward to “the end black portraiture as a monetized condition, the return of Abstraction, the long deferred and perversely denied universal human…” Even so, a man can dream! It’s the dreamers who inspire Keely Shinners most: those who might not be included in the fair itself but who use it as an excuse to put together their own thing. Pop up shows like uninvested, Slip Stream, and Draft Title at Church Projects come to mind; so too do after parties like Siyabangena, a self-described hedonistic halfway house and voguing ball. Their slogan – less discourse, more democracy at the disco! – is a mantra even this house of discourse can get behind.