Art and about: 10 art fairs not to miss

Swiss-Guinean photographer Namsa Leuba's work will be exhibited at the inaugural That Art Fair in Cape Town.

Swiss-Guinean photographer Namsa Leuba's work will be exhibited at the inaugural That Art Fair in Cape Town.

Three Cape Town events next month – That Art Fair, the Guild International Design Fair and the Cape Town Art Fair – herald the start of the local art festival season and with this in mind, the Mail & Guardian has selected 10 art fairs and events to check out around the country this year.

In order of when the art fairs take place, here’s our list:

That Art Fair

This new art fair is another event to add to Cape Town’s packed visual arts calendar. The Art South Africa initiative – which takes place in the same week as Design Indaba, the Guild International Design Fair and the Cape Town Art Fair – presents works by up-and-coming young artists from the continent. It takes place in a parkade in Salt River on the fringe of the gentrified Woodstock, a neighbourhood that has, over the years, become home to many of the city’s art galleries. Unlike traditional art fairs, this showcase features comic art, fashion exhibitions and graffiti murals.

Date: February 25 to March 1

Guild International Design Fair

The second edition of this fair, which shines a spotlight on design from all over the world, is all set to have a huge effect on the global craft scene. The five-day event is to host works by some of Mzansi’s esteemed artists, such as Kendell Geers and Conrad Botes, who is putting on a solo show of large-scale sculptural works. The Southern Guild show taking place at Cape Town’s V&A Waterfront boasts Botswana furniture designer Peter Mabeo’s human nests and Los Angeles-based design company the Haas Brothers will debut a new collection called Afreaks.

Designs from twins Simon and Nikolai Haas. (Ben Cope, Destiny)

Date: February 25 to March 1.

Cape Town Art Fair

Despite the Cape Town Art Fair being fairly new on the art scene, this four-day event is fast becoming a drawcard for collectors, dealers and artists. Taking place during the city’s annual Design Indaba week, the fair features speakers such as American critic and performance art curator RoseLee Goldberg and South African artist Stephen Hobbs. This year’s exhibition highlights include museum night at the Iziko Museum and the Art in Public Places installations around the V&A Waterfront. Showcasing contemporary art from a range of galleries across the country, the fair takes place in two main venues at the V&A Waterfront: The Avenue and a marquee alongside the new Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa.

Penny Siopis’s artwork will be on display during the art fair. (David Harrison)

Date: February 26 to March 1

Infecting the City

This annual art showcase transforms Cape Town’s inner city into an outdoor venue where art is free and intended to be accessible to everyone. The week-long festival, now in its eighth year, features various installations, participatory artworks and performances as well as stationary and mobile exhibitions. The 2015 instalment includes works by local and international dancers, musicians and visual artists such as South African photographer-filmmaker Brent Meistre, whose mobile drive-in theatre and pop-up cinema experience titled Analogue Eye will be on display.

Art is accessible to everyone at Infecting the City (Sydelle Willow-Smith)

Date: March 9 to 14

National Arts Festival

The Grahamstown festival, as it is fondly known, is arguably the country’s most celebrated and wide-ranging arts event. The 10-day festival includes performance art, music, film, dance and theatre, and is an important platform for visual art. The festival also shows the work of the winner for the annual Standard Bank Young Artist Award for Visual Art prize, which was recently handed to Cape Town’s Kemang wa Lehulere. The town also hosts art walkabouts and various exhibitions.

Kemang wa Lehulere. (Adam McConnachie)

Date: July 2 to 12

Turbine Art Fair

Hosted over a weekend in the Turbine Hall in Newtown, Johannesburg, this art fair aims to highlight new works and emerging South African artists. The third edition of the event features galleries from across the country and various exhibitions, talks centred on the arts and live music. The goal of the Turbine Art Fair, according to the event organisers, is to educate people about contemporary art, enrich the lives of artists and viewers, and make art accessible (and affordable) to all who are interested.

Date: July 16 to 19

Jo’burg Arts Alive

Spring is one of the most exciting seasons on Johannesburg’s cultural calendar, the beginning of which is heralded by the roll-out of the annual Jo’burg Arts Alive programme. This multifaceted festival sees events taking place around the city, such as the landmark Jazz on the Lake festival and the Speak the Mind spoken word session. Arts Alive is a platform for visual art and conferences concerning the creative economy, and many events are free.

Date: To be announced (in September)

FNB Jo’burg Art Fair

Ayanda Mabulu’s Yakhal’inkomo artwork at the 2013 art fair. (Gallo)

The annual FNB Jo’burg Art Fair, which launched in 2008, is one of the country’s biggest art attractions. The Sandton-based event features a weekend of panel discussions, visual art shows and food and wine stalls. In 2013, a cloud of contention covered the fair when a controversial artwork by Ayanda Mabulu depicting President Jacob Zuma was taken down, leaving critics screaming “censorship”. But the  Yakhal’inkomo – Black Man’s Cry painting was later reinstated. With a focus on contemporary art from Africa and the diaspora, the art fair features the FNB Art Prize, which was awarded to Portia Zvavahera last year.

Date: September 11 to 13

Art Week Jo’burg 2015

The inaugural Art Week Jo’burg kicked off with a bang in 2014, with the Goodman Gallery hosting a performance art piece by The Brother Moves On and a live mural painting by Mr Fuzzy Slippers and Nolan Dennis, which was subsequently destroyed. The weeklong event takes place during the Jo’burg Art Fair but plays out beyond Sandton’s limits. With exhibitions in Soweto, Alexandra, the city centre and more, the fair aims to be inclusive with its no-entrance-fee approach and free shuttle service to various shows.

Date: September 12 to 20

City of Gold Urban Art Festival

The street art festival returns in October. (Grayscale Concepts)

One of the country’s most renowned street art events, the City of Gold Urban Art Festival, returns in October for the fifth consecutive year. With the aim of establishing Johannesburg as a destination for graffiti art, the weeklong festival takes place around the city centre. From live mural painting to graffiti-related movie screenings and exhibitions as well as walkabouts, the festival aims to dispel the negative perception of graffiti by raising awareness about the art form.

Date: October 4 to 10

More art events from across Africa

Kenya Art Fair
The Kenya Art Fair, which took place over four days in November last year, welcomed droves of art lovers and buyers at the Sarit Centre Exhibition Hall in Nairobi. The art fair is free and features art talks, walkabouts and visual art galleries.


Dakar Biennale
The biennale, also known as Dak’Art, Biennale de l’Art Africain Contemporain, takes place biennially in Senegal’s capital and is one of the continent’s largest contemporary art fairs. Started in the early 1990s, the next event – the 12th Dakar Biennale – takes place in 2016.

Visit the event’s facebook page.

Lagos Photo Festival
Organised by non-profit organisation the African Artists’ Foundation, this is Nigeria’s first international art festival of photography. The monthlong festival, which hosts exhibitions, workshops and large-scale outdoor prints, aims to establish a community for contemporary photography to unite local and international artists.


stefanie jason

stefanie jason

Following studying towards her Film & Media degree at the University of Cape Town and North Carolina State University, Stefanie Jason began work as a copy editor and writer for various South African publications, including Bona, True Love and Sowetan, as well as the Mail & Guardian. For the M&G's arts & culture supplement Friday, she writes about art, music & lifestyle when she isn't relaxing, traveling or checking out Jo'burg's many art galleries. Read more from stefanie jason


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