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South African Art Times: April 08 News

South African Art Times: April 08 News

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THE SOUTH AFRICAN
 www.arttimes.co.za • April 2008 Issue 4 Vol 3 Subscription RSA 180 p.a April Print & Distrib. 7 000 copies RSA Free. Available in Namibia & Zimbabwe
ART
TIMES
Photo: Paul Weinberg (detail)
 
Page 2South African Art Times. April 2008
The South African
 
Art Times
April 2008www.arttimes.co.za
Published monthly by
Global Art Information
PO Box 15881 Vlaeberg,8018, Cape TownTel. 021 424 7733Fax. 021 424 7732
Editor Gabriel Clark-Brown
editor@arttimes.co.za
AdvertisingLeone Rouse
leo@arttimes.co.zaNews: press@arttimes.co.zaShows: show@arttimes.co.zaArtwork: art@arttimes.co.zaLayout and DesignDogsswagger 
 
Deadlines for news, articles and clas-
sieds 20th of each monthThe Art Times is published in the rst
week of each month. News and ad-vertising material need to be with thenews and marketing managers by the15th- 20th of each month.Newspaper rights
The newspaper reserves the right to rejectany material that could be found offensive by its readers. Opinions expressed in theSA Art Times do not necessarily represent
the ofcial viewpoint of the editor, staff or  publisher, while inclusion of advertising
features does not imply the newspaper’s
endorsement of any business, product or 
service. Copyright of the enclosed mate-rial in this publication is reserved.
SUBSCRIPTIONS
NAMIBIA
Call John at:Tel: +264 81 1286585
ZIMBABWE
Gallery Delta110 Livingstone Avenue,Greenwood Park, Harare,Tel/fax: (263-4) 792135ael@twinarts.co.zwGet your free copydelivered to your door 
www.arttimes.co.za
Ping! I’ve got mail. And… it’s theofficial postmortem press releasesumming up the exhilaratinglymanic buying and networkingfrenzy that was the first Joburg Art Fair, during which 22 major galleries took up 5000 squaremetres of the high-rent SandtonConvention Centre to tout thelargest collection of African andSouth African contemporary artthe world has ever seen beneathone roof.So what’s the verdict? ‘A re-sounding success,’ trumpets therelease. ‘More than 6 500 peopleattended… with nearly R30-mil-lion worth of art work sold duringthe four-day art bonanza.’ Phew,R30-million! That’s a whole lotof aesthetic hunger, proving Art-logic impresario Ross Douglas’spersuasive claim that Africancontemporary art is a highlymagnetic investment in an oth-erwise wobbly economy in whichproperty, for one, has taken anall too sobering nosedive anda tank of petrol is costing asmuch as an impromptu sketch bypainterly satirist Lizza Littlewortof Whatiftheworld fame.But ‘a resounding success’?Is that an honest verdict? I’dsay so. Of course, behindevery headline hides a knottycompound of contesting view-points. So let’s unpack a fewof them. Firstly, let’s get thecurmudgeonly murmurs from theholier-than-thou clan of wannabeGilles Deleuzes out of the way.The main muffled disgruntlementthat seemed to circulate theperipheries of the late capital-ist empire while the Fair wasunderway was a criticism of itscommercial nature. ‘All that un-conscionable moolah… exclusivehighbrow Sandton ConventionCentre… too white… kugelfetishism… lack of meaningfulanalysis… shallow market driventastes… bla bla bla.’ Well, tome, that seemed like a naïveand misguided argument, likegriping about the price of caviar in the food hall at Les GalleriesLafayette.Obviously it’s a commercialendeavour. It’s an Art Fair,the equivalent of an upscalehypermarket for the tastefullyinclined consumer of rare goodsof mercurial hyper-inflated value. And since when has art been soexempt from capitalism’s filthytentacles in the first place?‘People tended to romanticizethe Fair,’ says gallerist DavidBrodie, who successfully usedthe Art Fair as an opportunity toboost the growing reputation hisnew gallery Art Extra and profilehis younger artists. ‘With theghost of CAPE hovering on theperiphery, people were desperatefor it to be so many other things,but you couldn’t pretend it’s wasa biennale. An art fair is a tradeshow, like a glorified Rand Show,but instead of Kreeply Krauliesbeing on the floor, there areR150 000 sculptures.’So we’ll start by accepting that Art Fairs worldwide are ruthlesslymercenary market-driven events.The other slightly more legitimatebeef was on the part of the gal-lerists, who were rumoured to bea little nose out of joint about thefact that, As You Like It, the pan- African show originated by theorganizers and curated by SimonNjami of Africa Remix acclaim,was a commercial endeavour.The argument was that this putthe paid-up galleries in competi-tion for sales with the organizerswho ceased to be a neutral,disinterested party.This niggle ended up beingsomething of a red herring,because the curated showturned out to be a fairly dismalproposition and one of the Fair’sfew weaknesses. As much as Imight be a fan of Njami’s criticalthinking and writing, As You LikeIt struck me as being a uniformlyuncompelling and fairly shoddilyput together affair. And by Sun-day afternoon, I didn’t notice toomany red stickers on those darkblack walls in the centre of theroom, which some had startedto describe as ‘the Black Hole’referring to the negative spatialdynamics of the show’s layout. And while we’re on weaknesses,the other aspect Artlogic couldimprove upon next year, isfinding a better way to accom-modate the schmooze factor  – that crucial social aspect of artworld networking. Although theorganizers did put a fair amountof effort into curating the Joburg Art Week – a parallel programmeof events that took place in andaround the Fair itself – most of these events, including the bigSaturday night disco meltdown,were located downtown. Therewas no designated slinky bar or lounge where buyers and artistscould meet over a Martini todiscuss their mutual prospectsin Dubai. I was told by one disap-pointed international scenester that at Miami Basel there’s anunofficially decreed spot whereeveryone knows they’ll catch abit of art fair action. Hopefullywe can look forward to rubbingshoulders with rising stars of thelocal art world at such a jointnext year.Then there’s the issue of prices.The Fair was supposed to offer an in for first time buyers, but Icouldn’t find anything worthwhileunder the R7 000 tag – hardly anenticing prospect for the aspirantcollector.But let’s not nitpick. For aninaugural event, the Art Fair was a dazzling success and youcouldn’t but get excited by thehugeness of the moment at theglitzy opening night party, whereFNB suits, Desperate House-wife stilettos, auteur hats andfashionista waistcoats shimmiedthrough the stalls taking in thebest contemporary work thatSouth African and internationalgalleries have to offer right now.One had an electric sense of allthe gallerists stepping up to themark in a big, bold way – eachputting his very best foot forwardto ensure the rent was worthit. There was also evidence of artists, using the Fair as a publicincentive to rise to their ownprivate occasions. I was struck,for example, by the freshness of the Wayne Barker series PeopleWho Love Themselves, on showat the NSA stand. These smallglowing portraits were somethingwe haven’t seen from Barker be-fore, something new and daringto show off at the Fair.Then there was the frissonbetween the hard-talking Jo’burggalleries and their straight-dress-ing artists, and the more oblique,understated Cape Town galleriesand their Diesel-drag, mullet-coiffed brigade of hipster fiends.The difference between the artscenes in these two urban cen-tres is fairly polar. But oppositesattract and the Douglas says thatall the galleries that participatedin this year’s show have signedup again for next year and thatten more galleries will be addedto the 2009 extravaganza. And if you didn’t read about ithere, you could have read aboutit in the Dutch Financial Times,online at Art + Auction or ArtInfoor seen it on CNN. It seems thatthe Joburg Art Fair was the bigglobal breakthrough we all hopeit would be and there are a fair number of gallerists and artistswho are laughing all the way tothe bank as a result of it. (Threeeditions of Angus Taylor’s epicR1-million rock sculpture weresold at the Everard Read standon the opening night alone.) Per-sonally though, as gratifying asit was to cruise those stalls andabsorb the ripples of the wholegoddamn scene under one roof, Ithink I’ll save my pennies for lespeak moments on the global artcalendar.
FAIR DEAL
 Alex Dodd reports back from the Joburg Art Fair 2008
 
South African Art Times. April 2008 Page 3
KUNSGALERY
CAPE TOWN
JOHANS BORMAN
FINE ART GALLERY
A showcase for the best of South African Masters,as well as some leadingcontemporary artists.
Telephone: 021 423 6075www.johansborman.co.zaMon-Fri: 10h00 - 18h00Sat: 09h00 - 14h00or by appointmentIn Fin Art BuildingUpper Buitengracht Street, Cape Town 8001Cell: 082 566 4631E-mail: art@johansborman.co.za
Philip Barlow,
Pause.
100 x 150 cm
 Although most gallerists werekeeping their sales figures closeto their chests, by all accountsthe first Joburg Art Fair was aroaring commercial success.According to Ross Douglas,head of Artlogic, the firm thatstaged the event, accumulativesales amounted to R27 million.“It was a financial success. If you compare the figures with theGlasgow Art Fair that has beenrunning for a decade and onlydid a turnover of around £1.2–million last year we are doingincredibly well for our first year,”said Douglas.Artworks were flying off themakeshift walls at the fair, ob-served Emma Bedford, director of Goodman Cape.“Everybody was really upbeat.We sold a phenomenal amountof work; we had to rehang every-day. Linda (Givon) had reserva-tions before the show but she isbeaming now,” said Bedford.Jacques Michau of the EverardRead Gallery in Johannesburgwas more than satisfied with hisgallery’s takings.“The sales were good.”The Everard Read did not sellall the artworks they displayedbut they had no problem shiftingseveral pricier works in the R1-million region.It was also rumoured that a 1947artwork by Gerard Sekoto, whichwas displayed at Michael Ste-venson’s curated show, TravelYour Road and Travel Along,fetched over R5m.But it wasn’t just the big galleriesthat enjoyed financial successat the fair; many of the smaller gallery owners also waxed lyricalabout their takings.One small independent Joburggallery that preferred to remainanonymous said they receiveda 500 percent return on their investment in the art fair.Not only did this gallery selleverything in their stand but theysecured 40 advance orders for artworks from their small stableof artists.“We totally underestimated whatthe sales were going to be like,had we known we would havebrought more art with us to thefair,” he said. As a new gallery still establish-ing a name and a client basethey found the art fair to be anindispensable marketing tool.“We left the fair with a regis-ter full of names and contactnumbers of prospective clients,”beamed the gallery’s owner.Many up-and-coming CapeTown-based galleries, however,seemed to be less enthusiasticabout their financial returns,implying that they hadn’t partici-pated in the fair to garner sales.“We approached the fair witha different objective; we are ayoung gallery and we wantedto make a statement. I think itwas obvious from the Julia RosaClarke installation that sellingwasn’t our top priority,” saidJustin Rhodes, co-owner of theWhatiftheworld gallery.Most gallerists observed the ma- jority of the 6 500 visitors to theart fair to be primarily Joburgersand first-time buyers.“It is great that there were a lotof new clients; it means the mar-ket is growing. If the entrancefee was cheaper (it cost R200) itmight have encouraged a wider selection of buyers,” observedRhodes.Heidi Erdmann of the ErdmannContemporary and Photogra-phers Gallery in Cape Townconcurred with Rhodes, suggest-ing that the majority of her saleswere to novice collectors andthat recurrent art buyers didn’tventure past the Joburg galleriesthey normally patronised. Shealso noticed the absence of corporate buyers.“There were no internationalcurators, publishers or media atthe art fair like you get at interna-tional art fairs.”Erdmann clocked up sales butsaid she did not participate in theart fair to make money. “I makeenough sales from my gallery Idon’t need to attend an art fair toacquire sales.”Erdmann participates in art fairsaround the world and says thather primary motive for takingpart is to network with interna-tional curators and publishersso as to promote the artists sherepresents. For that reason shefelt that the Joburg Art Fair wasdisappointing. Erdmann alsofelt that the booths were notcompetitively priced.“A booth at a New York art fair costs half the price. Even ParisPhoto only charge R120 000 for a booth and at least you haveexposure to a wider internationalaudience,” she said.The stands at the Joburg Art Fair cost R1000 per square metre,making the 200 square metrestands come with a price tag of R200 000, according to Douglas.Based on most gallerists’favourable feedback, however, itseems that everyone did recouptheir costs. Well, except for Art-logic that made a loss of R1-mil-lion, according to Douglas, whowas unfazed by the outcome.“We expected to lose money inthe first year, we will probablyonly make a profit in the thirdyear,” he said. As one may have gathered fromDouglas’ remarks, the Joburg ArtFair will not be a once off event.Douglas said that all of the 22galleries that participated thisyear and ten additional gallerieshave already expressed interestin taking part in the 2009 Joburg Art Fair.While no galleries have signedon the dotted line as yet, Bed-ford, Rhodes and Michau saidthey were all looking forward toattend the fair next year.“The art fair really created asense of community betweengallerists and dealers, I thinkwe have learnt that we needto all stand together to makean impact internationally,” saidRhodes.
Joburg Art Fair pulls R27-m success
Not all the galleries were looking to turn a buck at the fair but most proted, writes Mary Corrigall

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