Friday, April 9, 2010

African Art Celebrated at Joburg Art Fair Last Week

Recession or not, the art world goes on, and never was this more obvious than at the Joburg Art Fair this past weekend.

For those of us who thought that the tough economic times would put a damper on the occasion, we couldn’t have been more wrong.

The price tags were certainly not shy (a particularly unique and gorgeous Kentridge work at the Goodman Gallery stand was going for a weighty R1 083 000) and among the 23 galleries participating, there were quite a few red “sold” dots to behold.

This is a phenomenon that Ross Douglas, director of the company Artlogic, which runs the Joburg Art Fair, commented on during the media walkabout on Friday March 26.

“For me, one of the really interesting things about the Fair is that if you’d tried to do an art fair in SA eight years ago, there wouldn’t have been enough galleries,” he says.

“But in the last four or five years, suddenly a whole lot of galleries started up.

“Last year was a really difficult year financially, and what we’ve seen is that these galleries, despite this really difficult recession, have managed to sustain themselves,” Douglas says.

“We’ve lost two SA galleries between last year and this year – Warren Siebrits and Bell Roberts – but I’ve been amazed at how galleries have managed to sustain themselves through what has been a very long and difficult year.”

However, it’s not just the buyers and art connoisseurs who got their two cents worth from the Fair.

There has always been an educational angle to the weekend, which is why there were a series of free art talks by experts in the field running throughout all three days of the Fair.

“One of the ideas behind the Fair is to make it really accessible to people, to get people inquisitive about art, and interacting with art, and the talks are a nice way to understand art,” explains Douglas.

Chili Hawes, director of the October Gallery in London, which has exhibited at the Fair for three consecutive years, says that she can see people’s enthusiasm for art increasing.

“Especially this year, I see a lot of people really keenly looking at the work, and so that’s very refreshing to us,” she says.

“People really appreciate it and love it and seem to be interested in it and learning about it.”
Arguably of the best offering that the Fair provides is access to international galleries’ stands, because as Douglas says, SA galleries focus on SA art, whereas some of the international galleries focus on art from the rest of the continent.

For those folks who spent part of their weekend at the Fair, the chance to see works never before seen in SA would certainly not have gone unappreciated.

To read our original posting on the 2010 Joburg Art Fair, click here.

Source: The Citizen

By: Natalie Bosman

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