South African Art Fair Relaunches As FNB Art Joburg

BY Rebecca Anne Proctor / Sep 10 2019 / 13:12 PM

The Johannesburg-based art fair gets a makeover after it was bought in June by its former director, Mandla Sibeko

South African Art Fair Relaunches As FNB Art Joburg
Courtesy of Rele Gallery and the artist
Sejiro Avoseh. The Last Supper. Mixed media. 54 x 60 inches

Last year, a group of six South African galleries, including Goodman Gallery, Stevenson and Blank Projects, decided to stop participating at the Joburg art fair and approached the FNB Joburg Art Fair’s then director, Mandla Sibeko about acquiring it and relaunching it. He agreed, taking over from previous owners Artlogic, and the fair returns this September as FNB Art Joburg (13-15 September) with the continuation of FNB’s 12-year tenure as a sponsor. Remaining focused on African contemporary art, the fair is smaller in size with around nine exhibitors in the main section spearheaded by a group of the country’s main galleries.

These will be surrounded by an “incubator” section of smaller stands for younger galleries. “The shift and the rebrand is a natural evolution,” says Sibeko. “There has been a huge interest around the world, a big shift, towards people interested in buying African art. There has also been a shift of international institutions opening spaces in their collections. We, in collaboration with the galleries, have come together and returned to the drawing board to elevate the experience for the customer.” 

Sejiro Avoseh. Drive Time. Mixed media. 72 x 48 inches
Courtesy of Rele Gallery and the artist

Exhibitors in the main section will show in a booth structure include all South African galleries: blank projects, Everard Read, Gallery MOMO, Goodman Gallery, Kalashnikovv, SMAC Gallery, SMITH, Stevenson and WHATIFTHEWORLD. “Johannesburg is South Africa’s most important city, and now it finally has a fair that shares these beliefs, and puts its money where its mouth is, said Joost Bosland, Director Stevenson.

A new addition is the Gallery Lab, a 600sqm pavilion where galleries and art spaces from across Africa can stage their works. The new platform, curated by Nicole Siegenthaler (Fair Manager, FNB Art Joburg) and Banele Khoza (Founding Director, BKhz) will include nine exhibitors and act as a convention of sorts, where participants can explore and test new artists, ideas and business models relevant to the contemporary African arts landscape. Exhibitors are invited to participate on a proposal basis.

Tonia Nneji. Long Quiet Night. 2019. Oil on canvas. 3.5ft x 4ft
Courtesy of Rele Gallery and the artist

The featured artists from nine galleries from five African countries include 16/16, Lagos; BKhz, Joburg; Hussein Salim, Eclectica Contemporary, Cape Town; ELA Espaço Luanda Arte, Luanda; Modzi Arts, Lusaka; Balekane Legoabe and MJ Turpin, NO END Contemporary Art Space, Joburg; Sejiro Avoseh, Tonia Nneji and Marcellina Akpojotor, Rele Gallery, Lagos; Revolving Arts Incubator, Lagos and Khulekani Msweli, Mbongeni Dlamini, Mesuli Mamba, Tony Marshak, Phindile Mamba, Thabo Lukhele and Sakhile Gumbi, Yebo Contemporary, Swaziland.

Another addition is the MAX section. The first of its kind in Africa, it will be dedicated to showcasing large-scale installations that might otherwise be difficult to show in a fair section.

 Marcellina Akpojotor. Daughter of Esan (fifth generation). 2018. 4X3ft
Courtesy of Rele Gallery and the artist

Goodman Gallery will present a large painting by Misheck Masamvu; Everard Read, will exhibit a sculpture by Brett Murray; blank projects has commissioned Igshaan Adams to create work on site; SMAC is set to present a new collage by Jody Paulsen; WHATIFTHEWORLD will exhibit a multimedia sculpture by Athi Patra-Ruga; and Stevenson will showcase a large scale photographic print by Zanele Muholi.

“I would be concerned if the art scene and platforms locally weren’t adapting,” said South African collector Alissa Jenkins. “The evolution indicates the art community and market in Johannesburg is more vibrant than ever. Welcoming in experimental spaces like BKhz lead by artist, curator Banele Khoza, into FNB Art Joburg is breathing new energy into the art experience through concepts like Gallery Lab. What’s exciting is to see the move away from the expected idea of a commercial lead fair to experiences that bridge relationships, engage wider audiences and birth new ideas.”