Guy du Toit in the sculpture garden
Guy du Toit in the sculpture garden
Image: Supplied

The second iteration of RMB Latitudes Art Fair ran from May 24-26 at the unique Shepstone Gardens venue on the city’s east side in partnership with art-focused corporate RMB. Directors Lucy MacGarry and Roberta Coci founded and run both the fair and the art business it spearheads, Latitudes Online. Latitudes Online is now a successful international online sales and exhibition platform for emerging and mid-career artists from across Africa and the African diaspora.

Much was expected of the RMB Latitudes Art Fair this year, and it did not disappoint. Shepstone Gardens has been a destination events and wedding venue for many years, but the architectural additions in recent years, including a glass house/greenhouse, a cathedral-like space and the many open-air balconies, terraces and lawns for people to congregate, make it a fascinating spot for an art fair.

Presiding over the layout is the Latitudes Centre for the Arts, the central, elegant gallery space that is run and programmed throughout the year as the Latitudes Online base of operations.

At the fair, this space showed a variety of work by more established galleries such as David Krut and Kalashnikovv, and housed the sold-out talks programme, which featured discussions on investing in and collecting art with Gail Bosch from IToo Artinsure and Lucy MacGarry, as well as a talk on 15 centuries of African sculpture, featuring art historians and sculpture experts Olivia Barrell and Hlonipha Mokoena.

In fact, pretty much everything sold out this year. Capacity restrictions on the venue meant visitor numbers for the whole fair were capped at 9,000 for the duration of the three days, but this is still significant. The ethos of the fair is more inclusive, and focused on broadening the base of collectors and newer art buyers.

It’s not an easy task. Digital art agency Usurpa occupied a cosy cellar-type gallery space just off the main concourse, showing dramatically digitally animated works by Nandipha Mntambo and others. A design space offered locally produced fashion and accessories nearby, adjoining a food court and bar area to relax in the sun.

These attempts at the democratisation of the art world’s value proposition to a wider audience were not universally well-received. One gallerist thought that they should have been paid instead of the other way round, since the galleries and exhibitors were acting as the entertainment. But this opinion would not have been shared by many.

Reservoir Projects
Reservoir Projects
Image: Anthea Pokroy

Sales were brisk, though the numbers haven’t been officially released, and there was much interest in more affordable and accessible work, such as the prints and multiples on offer from Artist’s Proof Studios and Bevan de Wet’s Eleven Editions, among others. Other points of interest included a good representation of international galleries, including Afriart Gallery from Uganda, Affinity Gallery from Nigeria and Suburbia Gallery from Spain.

Everard Read, one of the few top-tier galleries that normally dominate the rival Art Joburg fair, which had a presence at RMB Latitudes, exhibited an outdoor sculpture garden that, despite the generally conservative choices of work — popular artists like Angus Taylor and Guy du Toit — worked surprisingly well in the conducive tiered architecture of the venue.

The two main awards at the fair are for the best exhibition stand, which was won this year by Cape Town-based curatorial agency Reservoir Projects, showing a mixture of intriguing sculpture and abstract work, including some lovely pieces by artist-to-watch Bulumko Mbete. 

The other award is the ANNA award for woman-identifying artists, this year won by Egyptian artist Nada Baraka.

All the work at the fair has been uploaded on Latitudes’ online platform, allowing collectors around the world to browse and buy works from RMB Latitudes exhibitors.

The popularity of the event is testimony to its strategy to widen the circle of art lovers and collectors.  Watch out for it in 2025.

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