/ 24 July 2023

Let colour be your guide at Turbine Art Fair 2023

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Fair value: An exhibitor guides visitors through their work at a previous Turbine Art Fair.

The Johannesburg art community is set to descend on Hyde Park Corner for the 11th edition of the Turbine Art Fair from 27 to 30 July. This year’s fair marries the worlds of up-and-coming artists, aspiring art collectors,and the fashion world. 

Visitors to the Turbine Art Fair (TAF) will be guided through 30 exhibitors and 10 unique projects — pulling work from top galleries, art dealers, studios and collectives — via coloured walls, which will help guests distinguish different categories of work. 

“The public has embraced the ethos of TAF over the last decade and they have built a long-standing, trusted relationship with the fair, which provides them with a safe and curated space in which to buy good-quality South African contemporary art,” says Glynis Hyslop, founder of TAF. 

TAF has been a more nomadic art fair than most, known for changing venues every year. However, the fair’s propensity for transforming unconventional venues into exceptional spaces for engaging with art makes it exciting for emerging artists and collectors. 

TAF 2023 is under the creative direction of fashion designer Tiaan Nagel, whose flagship store is at Hyde Park Corner, which helps TAF’s vision of marrying emerging artists with the artistry of fashion. 

“It started with Glynis [Hyslop], who is the owner of the fair company, picking Hyde Park as a new spot, and that kind of identified fashion as a partner to art,” says Nagel. 

Although TAF is tapping fashion as a partner to the art world, it is clear this year’s fair doesn’t aim to reopen the age-old question, ‘is fashion wearable art?’, but uses fashion to converge Hyde Park Corner’s luxury fashion shops with the art world that will descend on the shopping mall.  

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Tiaan Nagel is the creative director of this year’s show which will be held at Johannesburg’s Hyde Park shopping mall.

“[Hyde Park Corner] is a public space. People come to buy groceries and shop, so it’s that kind of audience that meets the art audience,” explains Nagel. 

“But what you do with those two groups of people is to integrate those two markets in the public spaces to activate them with interesting installations that require the person viewing to be more engaged.”

Both TAF attendees and shoppers can expect a rare ceiling-to-floor installation of local fashion designer Thebe Magugu’s eight heritage dresses inspired by Zulu, Tswana, Swati, Vhavenda, Pedi, Xhosa, Tsonga and Sotho culture. 

Nagel dubs the installation, which is 8m high, “big Jack and the Beanstalk clothing”. It will hang from the glass ceiling, through the atrium, and down to the lower level of the mall. 

TAF is known for its highly engaging fairs that go beyond static white walls plastered with artworks.  

“It’s a ​​conceptual way to show the public that clothing doesn’t have to appear just in a functional form with two sleeves and a collar or the size of a human — it could be oversized, it could be sculptural. 

“From an art point of view, clothing could also cross that boundary between installation on performance art,” explains Nagel. 

All shades of artist on display

To break with the tradition of white-walled exhibition spaces, the Turbine Art Fair will use different coloured walls as a guide to its different areas. 

“As you walk in, the colours would guide you through the space,” says Nagel. “It might be a super-dark navy blue that goes into a gradient fade as you go into the young artist section, then into more solid colours for the more established artists, and certain colours are reserved for food, music or public spaces.”

Since TAF is a platform primarily for emerging artists and collectors, the spaces will also be inclusive, friendly and easy on the eye, while still showcasing great art. 

The colour story challenges the typical art fair model because the artwork at TAF is not financially challenging but it does go through a rigorous vetting process by consultants, curators and galleries. 

Since TAF aims to showcase and launch emerging and unrepresented artists, its special projects Of f the Grid and On the Grid are returning. The former is dedicated to artists outside of the mainstream gallery circuit, such as Samson Minsi, Gail Behrmann, and Daniel Chimurere. 

On the Grid celebrates artists whose careers were launched through TAF. — Kimberley Schoeman