Art for all at Joburg Art Fair

On show at the 2009 Joburg Art Fair: 5
min by Ransome Stanley, oil on canvas,
105 x 160 cm, 2007

Black Target by Jonathan Guaitamacchi,
mixed media on paper mounted on
canvas, 185 x 140 cm, 2008

Wilma den Hartigh

Art lovers should prepare themselves for a visual feast when the 2009 Joburg Art Fair kicks off on 3 April. This year’s event will have something for anyone interested in art, showcasing the best of African contemporary visual culture as well as hosting art talks and activities for children.

Matthew McClure, press officer for the event, says that organisers have taken a “hybrid” approach to the 2009 event.

“The focus this year is to make art more accessible to the general public and people who aren’t normally keen to go to a gallery space,” he says.

There are many new developments and special projects to look out for at this year’s fair. McClure says the introduction of the BMW Art Talks Programme will add an important educational dimension. The aim of the talks is to increase knowledge of contemporary South African visual art in an intimate atmosphere. Artists from each participating gallery will talk to audiences about their vision and practice.

Visitors also shouldn’t expect to attend the art talks in a traditional lecture venue. The talks will be housed in a massive glass box made of coloured Belgian glass and other state-of-the-art glass products, specially designed by PG Glass.

Another highlight planned for this year is an artist-run exhibition dedicated to new developments in contemporary South African art. The exhibition, entitled Bad Form: Things and Stuff, is a multifaceted project of which the second phase, Things and Stuff, is presented as a special project for the Joburg Art Fair. The project, curated by Kathryn Smith, Christian Nerf and Francis Burger, documents “experimental practices” in South Africa from the 1960s to the present. It tries to ask some tough questions about what should be considered “good” art.

McClure says furniture is also on the programme this year with a selection of the best contemporary South African furniture design. Trevyn and Julian McGowan of Source, a local sourcing agent for the international retail market, curated this exhibition. Southern Guild, a special collection of entirely new “one-of-a-kind” pieces, will also be launched at the Art Fair.

The Gordon Schachat Collection will be presenting Security, a unique installation by internationally acclaimed South African artist, Jane Alexander. Also shown in Göteborg, Sweden in 2007, Security makes reference to forced and voluntary migration, land resources and attendant security.

Printmaking also features prominently at the fair. The Artist Proof Studio, an art education centre that specialises in printmaking, will be marketing their high quality original prints. Their Pro Print Studio has one of the largest Takach etching presses in the country that has enabled them to edition the work of important South African artists such as Wim Botha, Diane Victor, William Kentridge and Willem Boshoff.  They hope to attract new collectors as well as established and emerging artists to join the studio.

Younger art enthusiasts also don’t have to stay at home this year, as there will be plenty to entertain them while parents peruse the art on display. A programme of creative activities such as tie-dye, block printing workshops, self-portraiture classes and poetry sessions will be available for the kids.

McClure hopes that the fair will draw a diverse range of people this year, including more young people. “We want to change the way people think about art. It is not just paintings on a wall,” he says.

He adds that the main goal is to create a comfortable environment. Weary visitors will certainly be able to make themselves comfortable in the new designer reading bar with the best art and visual culture publications on offer.  Alternatively, unwind at the Vida E Caffe and Lounge Bar with a designer drink or a cup of coffee.

The Joburg Art Fair is on from 3 to 5 April at the Sandton Convention Centre in Johannesburg. Special weekend passes of R200 will grant visitors access for the full three days. Alternatively, day passes will be on sale for R100.

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