Cape Town Art Fair Focuses on New Generation of African Artists

Get a sneak peek at what to see this year.

Kudzanai Chiurai, Genesis [Je n’isi isi] I (2016). Courtesy of Goodman Gallery.

Dealers and collectors are gearing up for the fifth annual edition of the Cape Town Art Fair, which takes place February 17–19 at the Cape Town International Convention Centre.

The exhibitor list this year is heavy on galleries from the continent, but there is a growing number of international names, from Dubai to Berlin.

This should come as no surprise. After years as an independent curator in the US, first-time fair curator Tumelo Mosaka returns to South Africa, and notes the changes that have occurred in the country and the art market since the end of apartheid.

“The increasing number of art fairs and biennales has also contributed towards a more global dialogue about art and society,” Mosaka told ArtThrob. “It has been exciting to see younger South African artists making work that is personal, unapologetic, and demanding of viewers to be engaged.”

Among the new initiatives he’s introducing this year is the Unframed section, which features large-scale, museum-quality sculptures and new media installations.

Jakkai Siributr, Tumelo Mosaka in 2008. ©Patrick McMullan. Photo by NICHOLAS RICHER/

Tumelo Mosaka at Tyler Fine Art in 2008. ©Patrick McMullan. Photo by NICHOLAS RICHER/

A return feature is the Tomorrows/Today section, showcasing solo presentations by emerging artists from Africa and the diaspora, as well as the Cultural Platforms section, which includes art institutions and non-profit organizations, as well as a series of talks.

ThabisaSekgala, Second Transition, 10 (2012), Courtesy of the artist and Goodman Gallery.

Thabisa Sekgala, Second Transition, 10 (2012), Courtesy of the artist and Goodman Gallery.

For Tomorrows/Today, Mosaka selected a body of work by the late photographer Thabiso Sekgala, who currently has a show at the Walther Collection in Germany, and shows at Goodman Gallery.

The gallery, which has branches in both Johannesburg, and Cape Town, will have three booths at the fair this year.

“Our booth on the main section of the fair is focused on promoting the work of the younger generation of contemporary African artists,” Liza Essers, owner of Goodman Gallery, told artnet News. She continued:

While we have some hard-hitting work by our very established artists—William Kentridge, David Goldblatt and Kendell Geers—the majority of the artists on our main booth are all compelling talents opening up brave new directions on the continent: the Zimbabwean artists Misheck Masamvu,Gerald Machona and Kudzanai Chiurai, South African/Zambian Nolan Oswald Dennis, South African Mikhael Subotzky and Samson Kambalu—a Malawian now based in London.

Tendai Mupita, Fractality 9 (2016). Courtesy First Floor Gallery Harare

Tendai Mupita, Fractality 9 (2016). Courtesy First Floor Gallery Harare.

The city’s growing reputation as a cultural hub is increasingly drawing in international collectors, who are ready to take a chance on new names.

Essers says she is “seeing signs that things are shifting somewhat; instead of us always taking African art out of the country to get global attention, more and more people are coming here.”

“This fair is wonderful,” said Valerie Kabov, director of education and international projects at First Floor Gallery, in an email to artnet News. “South Africa is an important market for us,” she said, noting that visitors and locals are excited for the fall opening of the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa, a Cape Town-based non-profit that bills itself as “the first major museum in Africa dedicated to contemporary art.”

The Harare-based gallery is a third-time exhibitor at the Cape Town fair. This year it will have two presentations: co-hosting, with Dubai’s Showcase Gallery, a special project for Helen Teede, a young painter included in the Tomorrows/Today curated section. In the main booth, works by Gresham Tapiwa Nyaude and others will be on view.

Michael Linders, King of my Castle. Courtesy of artist and SMITH Gallery

Michael Linders, King of my Castle (2017). Courtesy of artist and SMITH Gallery

There’s also moments of levity to be had at the fair, like with Michael Linders’ colorful inflatable work, King of My Castle, which makes its debut at Cape Town’s SMITH Gallery. (A solo show by the artist Stephen Allwright runs until February 18 at the gallery’s space on 56 Church Street.)

Liza Grobler, No More Worlds To Conquer. Courtesy of artists and Everard Read and Circa Gallery.

Liza Grobler, No More Worlds To Conquer. Courtesy of artists and Everard Read and Circa Gallery.

There’s also Liza Grobler’s installation No More Worlds To Conquer, which features a series of yellow polypropylene rope nets, and will be on display care of Everard Read and Circa Gallery. It was previously on view in the atrium at Iziko’s South African National Gallery in Cape Town.

With over 75 galleries bringing artists to the fair, it’s the most ambitious year yet. As Mosaka said,  “For too long Africa has been thought of as being in the dark, but now people are beginning to pay attention.”

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