Africa’s Biggest International Contemporary Art Fair Opens Doors

Africa’s biggest international contemporary art fair has opened its doors to the public for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic began. The Investec Cape Town Art Fair went online last year, but this year has nearly 100 artists exhibiting works in-person from 20 countries.

“It’s absolutely a joy to be back to almost real life,” said Laura Vincenti, director of the art fair. “I mean, we have had two years that have been very tough, but the art community have been very supportive. And this city and South Africa needed an event to reconnect people, so we are very grateful to everyone.”

This is the ninth year the fair is being held, but was hosted online last year due to COVID-19.

“It’s been a long journey since the beginning, but now the fair is on an international calendar. We got a lot of exhibitors from overseas. Like many, more than a thousand collectors coming just for this week to Cape Town,” Vincenti said.

Franco-Benin ceramicist King Houndekinkou, speaking from Benin, said he was extremely grateful to have his work shown at the fair, which is held in the Cape Town International Convention Centre.

“Wow, well it’s a blessing to be still here, first of all, and to still be having a career and still be showing and to have people wanting to still show the work after this time that we had where everyone was in lockdown — so yeah, it’s great! I’m happy!” he said.

Nigerian art lover Usen Obot flew in especially to see the show.

“I would say it’s like getting back to life because, for me as an artist and a gallery owner, seeing images is OK, but seeing the real thing is the real deal,” Obot said.

Fundraiser Tanya Townsend was there to make connections for a children’s home that runs an art program.

“It’s absolutely amazing. You just realize how starved you’ve been over the last two years. And just to see the buzz here. I didn’t know what to expect and it’s so vast,” Townsend said. “And you know we South Africans just love foreigners and coming to our beautiful city on this gorgeous sunny day. It’s just so thrilling. It’s fantastic.”

Vincetti said the fair is a hybrid event this year, so there is still an online component.

“Of course, with the difficulties of traveling and also the fear for many people especially from Europe and America to travel to South Africa, they have a chance to go online and see the fair online,” she said. “So what we are showing on our digital platform is exactly what you’d find at the fair. The same galleries, the same works. You can purchase or you can browse and see what’s going on.”

The fair ends Feb. 20, 2022.

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