"The Best Art In The World"
By PETRA MASON and JAMES SEY, March 2023
‘If this was in Switzerland nobody would be making any noise,’ said my plus one, a Zurich resident in town for the Cape summer. Yelling above the cacophony of the vernissage night chatter, we elbowed our way to the bubbles bar to buy a bottle to thuggishly carry around the exhibitor booths. The birthday bash - for Investec Cape Town Art Fair (ICTAF) celebrating a decade-long run and its largest-ever edition with final visitor tallies exceeding more than 25,000 over the three days, 6,700 VIPs, 106 exhibitors from 18 countries, including an impressive pan-African contingent of galleries and artists.
The highlights reel of work on the fair was extensive, featuring a strong presence of abstraction, tapestry and soft art with notable works by Michaela Younge, Thania Peterson, and Simphiwe Buthelezi.
Two major prizes were on offer — for best artist on one of the central, ‘emerging artist’ curated shows-within-the-show, titled Tomorrows/Today, and for best presented booth space, went respectively to Cape Town-based tapestry artist Talia Ramkilawan represented by Joburg based BKhz and to the Cape Town-headquartered EBONY/CURATED.
Friday night’s Artist’s Party in Constantia lit up like the Oscars. The French hosts, a collector couple who graciously and generously host the invite only bash annually – this time for 2000 of their closest artist friends – offered a full bar and poured exclusively French champagne and served local specialities like Cape Town's own savory dish, Babotie.
On the dance floor sequins sparked in the night lights and partiers were treated to impromptu table top vogueing by curator Shea Mlandeli-Machiri. On the actual stage, artists and politicians jostled for the mike as performers from the Congo did a shamanistic dance in audibly tinny costumes made from recycled and scrap materials, riffing on a rave favorite, the much less environmentally friendly inflatable man.
Far from the fair’s main activities Cape Town’s art week offered intriguing and worthy exhibitions and events all over the city, some that showcased in the days and weeks before the vernissage and timed to coincide with the ICTAF. Strauss & Co auction house staged ‘Curatorial Voices’ with hosted events as did several wine farms and the grand old Mount Nelson Hotel. The Norval Foundation museum offered a career survey of respected video and installation artist and UCT academic Berni Searle which is well worth a visit to the Steenberg mountain location.
At A4 Arts Foundation, an arts education, incubator and project space in the city, curator Josh Ginsberg put together an intellectually engaging and cleverly conceived international group show called ‘The Future is Behind Us’. A highlight of this was another view — and listen to — James Webb’s much loved and globally traveled sound work ‘Prayer’.
On Saturday night, the last official night of the fair, VIPs swaggered off to a private party at a Camps Bay mansion, while others watched an installation event on top of a high-rise parkade in the city titled ‘Exhibition: Match’, curated by Alex Richards (Stevenson) and Phokeng Setai. The event brought artists, gallerists, curators and writers together for a five-a-side football match high above central Cape Town. Players kits were designed by Berlin based South African artist Robin Rhode. Fun, inventive and enterprising, with some international precedent and artistic heft in the works on show, it pretty much summed up the vibe at the 10th edition of ICTAF. WM
Cultural historian and publisher. Beefcake 100% Rare, All Natural is her first Universe title, Bettie Page Queen of Curves and Bunny Yeager's Darkroom are her Rizzoli titles. Mason edited Fall 2015 Skira/Rizzoli's Imperfect Utopia.