Launched just months ago by a group of five formidable women, Latitudes Art Fair had its maiden event last weekend and we were there to experience it. Taking up residence on Nelson Mandela Square, Sandton, the focus of the fair was to showcase African artists within the ever-changing global context. Latitudes also differentiates itself from other fairs by opening its doors to unrepresented artists who are able to exhibit in the fair’s Independent section. “It is a fair that respects that the business of buying and selling art in South Africa is complex, competitive and, above all, in need of change,” say the founders.
From a host of outstanding work, through print and painting to interactive, we selected five exhibits that stood out.
At the intersection of fiction, history and religion, the adorned characters in Mozambican artist Celestino Mudaulane’s works appear as beasts, bought to life by vivid pattern and geometry. His work Lamb in Jaguar Skin, in Chinese ink on paper, made for a bold and commanding offering that was hard to overlook. Mudaulane’s work was brought to the fair by Arte de Gema, along with that of other artists from Mozambique.
Derrick Nxumalo’s vibrant 8m long cityscape on the KZNSA Gallery stand, titled The South African Art, Culture, Economy & Tourism, was without doubt a highlight at the fair, not only because of its sheer scale, but also the minute detail for viewers to indulge in. In it, buildings rise up to a sky of planes and the ground is animated with parks, trees and various countries’ flags in painstakingly fine form. The piece reportedly took him 15 years to produce.
A multitude of intricately bound paper beads make up Ugandan artist Sanaa Gateja’s sculptural wall hangings. Using recycled paper, his works are tapestries that speak to collaboration and community within an African context. Widely exhibited around the world as an artist and a designer of wearable beaded fashion, it comes as no surprise that Gateja is known as the “Bead King” in Uganda. His work is represented by Afriart Gallery.
Pushing into a previously unexplored space, The Mixed Reality Workshop takes artworks and develops them as three-dimensional virtual reality drawings. Explored through screens on site, the workshop had a number of pieces to experience under the title The Invisible Exhibition, including works by William Kentridge and Lady Skollie. Their drawings underpin how digital technology is changing art as we know it.
Sthenjwa Luthuli’s large-scale works beg the touch and close gaze of the viewer with their multiple colourful recesses. Represented by KZNSA Gallery, and awarded the title of Sasol New Signatures 2017 runner-up, Luthuli carves into plywood and paints into the carvings, resulting in a richly textured and complex surface that comes together with distance. His headless subjects explore circular form and Zulu cultural practice. His work formed part of the Latitudes Essay feature in conversation with poet Pitika Ntuli.
Art lovers were spoiled for choice last weekend, with FNB Art Joburg and Latitudes Art Fair taking place within walking distance of one another.