Investec Cape Town Art Fair
Investec Cape Town Art Fair
Image: Supplied

The largest art fair on the continent, the Investec Cape Town Art Fair (ICTAF), wrapped up this week after a massive city-wide Art Week across much of the Cape Town city bowl and surrounds.

The fair showcased 115 galleries from 24 countries, which exhibited a total of 400 artists from more than 50 countries all over the world. Most encouragingly for the local market, ICTAF 2024 attracted 30,000 visitors, including 10,000 VIPs, more than 30% of whom were foreign art lovers, buyers and collectors. This is an increase of about 15% on 2023.

The main fair, hosted once more at the Cape Town International Convention Centre, was organised into several thematic strands, including SOLO for solo artists, showcasing painting and curated by Sean O’Toole, and Tomorrows/Today, for emerging and newly established artists and curated by Mariella Franzoni. Cohering around the fair’s theme of “Unbound”, these and other special sections of the fair reflected on what the nature of freedom from constraint in the context of creativity might be.

The special section layout was much more user-friendly in 2024, colour-coded and grouped more tightly together to provide an accessible sense of the curation of each section. As a result, the 2024 fair appeared less overtly commercial, including interesting work across different media but tied together by ideas rather than a selection of greatest hits that might appeal to buyers.

In a fair this busy, individual highlights abounded. Thania Petersen, who also had a performance piece showing in the nearby Bo-Kaap, showed allegorical woven fabric pieces, illustrating decolonial histories of the coloured people of the area in intriguingly vertiginous and scintillating tableaux. Southern Guild showcased stylistically vibrant paintings by emerging talent Terrence Maluleke that attracted some buzz.

Tafadzwa Tega, After the Seasons (2023), mixed media on canvas 200 x 150cm
Tafadzwa Tega, After the Seasons (2023), mixed media on canvas 200 x 150cm
Image: Everard Read

A personal favourite was Goodman Gallery’s solo offering from photographer Lindokuhle Sobekwa, winner of the artist prize at the 2023 Joburg art fair. Despite fine art photography’s continued marginalisation by the art establishment and collectors alike, there is a rich tradition of fine art photography inspired by social documentary in SA, and Sobekwa is among the best we have. His selection of landscapes and mostly rural character studies here was masterful.

Young Joburg-based artist Boemo Diale, represented by Kalashnikkov Gallery, took the main fair prize in the Tomorrows/Today emerging artists category for her idiosyncratic and lushly lyrical portraits of fantasy African subjects, often painted as characters on ceramic urns and jugs.

Lindokuhle Sobekwa, Sanele Resting in Field (2021)
Lindokuhle Sobekwa, Sanele Resting in Field (2021)
Image: Lindokuhle Sobekwa and Goodman Gallery

Away from the main fair, most of the major art world players contributed to a riotous week of activity across greater Cape Town. Strauss & Co launched their latest Curatorial Voices commercial exhibition, focused on contemporary landscape; Norval Foundation hosted their Sovereign Art Prize finalist announcement and Iziko presented a large-scale tribute exhibition to national treasure Esther Mahlangu. One of the closing events was the new iteration of Exhibition Match, a project curated by Alexander Richards and Phokeng Setai that brings together art and football. Each iteration comprises an exhibition — in 2024 a show called Beef — of dynamic and vibrant solo paintings by Callan Grecia and an actual football match between members of the artworld ecosystem.

The consideration and care given to participation, curation and inclusion at the 2024 fair augur well for making ICTAF not entirely commercially driven and for its ambition to become more of an important aesthetic destination for art in and from Africa.

The 12th edition will take place from February 21-23 2025, with the preview on February 20 2025. Mark your calendars!

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