The 11th edition of the Investec Cape Town Art Fair (ICTAF), Africa’s biggest such event, runs from February 16-18 at the Cape Town International Convention Centre.
Having made a big return to form and celebrated its first decade last year, ICTAF is now well established as one of Cape Town’s key international attractions. The fair’s attraction leans heavily on its location, with Cape Town a more attractive collector and institutional art destination than Joburg these days.
The city’s ability to attract international visitors makes it a logical hub for connecting contemporary art from all over Africa — not only to the major museum and collector’s markets in Europe and the US, but also to the rest of the Global South. That connection as a growing part of the contemporary art ecosystem is especially important. It means that the ICTAF offers a significant platform for emerging contemporary galleries, artists and ideas from markets outside the traditional centres of art market power — especially those from the African continent — on an equal footing.
The curatorial theme for the 2024 edition is Unbound, and the fair’s idea is to get curators working within the main and special sections, as well as exhibitors, to think through the concept of liberation and what freedom from personal and historical restrictions might mean in a time of global conflict and turmoil.
This edition of ICTAF sees the City of Cape Town play a far more significant role in foregrounding the fair’s activities and artists for its local and international audience of collectors and institutions. As fair director Laura Vincenti puts it, “The city’s geography is an integral part of Investec Cape Town Art Fair’s success. Cape Town is a vibrant cultural hub, with a supportive community. It is very attractive to international collectors, with the great combination of diverse, cutting-edge art and a favourable exchange rate.
“This year the fair continues its work of providing an annual platform for artists, galleries, curators, museums, cultural institutions, collectors, and art enthusiasts to connect and interact in the name of art. The fair is also becoming known for facilitating dialogue, education and far-reaching interaction around contemporary African (and global) art.”
There will be more than 100 exhibitors from 24 countries, on the African continent and internationally, with 375 exhibiting artists comprising 54 nationalities, showcasing artworks in more than 30 art forms and genres, including ceramics, photography, installations, and performance art.
What to look out for
The fair is structured according to similar special sections as was the case with previous years, though the curatorial concept of Unbound will tie each section together closely. Each will tackle the question of liberation and, by implication, what it is to be free, led by the individual curators of each section.
- The main section comprises exhibiting galleries from around the world, many from the rest of Africa. Exhibitor numbers are steadily increasing each year and international exhibitors are now getting back to pre-pandemic levels.
- Tomorrows/Today is a curated section that has grown exponentially and is even bigger this year. This year it’s curated by the renowned Mariella Franzoni of Spain, which provides a platform for emerging and under-represented artists and acts as a forecast of future relevant practices and ideas. The section will feature 10 selected solo projects, with a cash prize going to the artist with the highest quality presentation. Titled Inhabiting the Wild, the 2024 edition of Tomorrows/Today explores and reimagines the concept of wildness through artistic imagination. The concept extends the idea of liberation by seeking to bring together diverse voices through a renewed sense of the wild, inspired by queer, feminist, decolonial and materialist studies, and embracing overt and subtle forms of political dissidence.
- The Solo section is curated by Cape Town based writer, critic and curator Sean O’Toole. Titled Loopholes in the Walls of Darkness, it focuses on painting. Notwithstanding astonishing advances in digital art, painting, though a solitary practice, continues to set the pace, in galleries and museums as well as at market. The 10 most expensive artworks sold anywhere in 2022 were all paintings. Figurative painting remains the medium du jour of commerce and a hallmark of the current zeitgeist. Still, O’Toole says, painting has rubbed up against disinterest and neglect so many times, and thus is aware of its own obsolescence and mortality. That might account for painting’s elastic form and unravelling edges, its infiltration into adjacent mediums of sculpture and photography, as well as its spillover into performance, film, and digital practices.
- Generations replaces 2023’s Past/Modern selection and is curated by Natasha Becker from the US and Capetonian Amogelang Maledu. The project celebrates artists who are at different stages in their careers and instigates cross-generational conversations among them. The project is intended to foreground artists who address the flaws of the past and reconstruct a future that uses the talents and creativity of all generations.
- The ALT section returns this year and is almost four times the size it was in 2023. The section is dedicated to projects that reflect the many ways in which the art world has to adapt to circumstance. Young, non-traditional art project spaces will showcase their artists in a unconventional way through installations that offers a fresh interpretation of the anti-booth. The section invites dialogue about unconventional, non-traditional modes of practice and thinking, and intends to break away from the usual art fair environment, bringing in a diversity of emerging voices.
Other returning sections to the main fair include EDITIONS for showcasing prints and multiples by various artists, as well as space for art magazines, journals and publications, and specialised educational institutions offering a window into the wider art ecosystem. Also included are a retail section, on-site restaurants and a market-type retail space outside the fair building.
Watch out too for ICTAF-related programming from all the leading Cape Town-based galleries, museums and institutions, who will open thought-provoking shows and host engaging programmes throughout the city at the time of the fair. Among other events is a major public art and urban intervention in the scenic Bo-Kaap, as the city truly becomes one of the most attractive and interesting art destinations anywhere.