Casting the spotlight to the edge
Nkgopoleng Moloi from ART AFRICA took time in the lead up to the 2019 Investec Cape Town Art Fair to interview Tumelo Mosaka about the latest edition of the fair and growth of the TOMORROWS/TODAY project.
Troy Makaza, The Opaque looking glass, 2018. Silicone infused with paint, 249 x 280cm. Courtesy of the artist & First Floor Gallery.
Investec Cape Town Art Fair’s TOMORROWS/TODAY flips the script by acknowledging ten artists that have traditionally gone unrecognised, providing a major platform where the art community can meaningfully engage with and support emerging artists working at the edge of the spotlight. The exhibition acts as a calling card towards artists contemplating contemporary art through transformation and experimentation while addressing current social and political issues. This year’s list of participants includes; Zyma Amien (South Africa), Medina Dugger (US/Nigeria), John-Michael Metelerkamp (South Africa), Troy Makaza (Zimbabwe), Chris Soal (South Africa), Azael Langa (South Africa), Armand Boua (Ivory Coast), Ihosvanny (Angola), Aimé Mpane (Democratic Republic of Congo) and Michael Cook (Australia). This diverse yet cohesive ensemble of artist works across multiple theses and mediums including; printmaking, drawing, photography, digital media, sculpture and installation – a remarkable combination of technical virtuosity, artistry and mastery, presenting idiosyncratic visions of the present and the future. The wide spectrum of artistic practices challenges expectations of what it means to create and points to the participants’ own assertion of space within the shifting global art landscape.
What are the necessary conditions under which an artist can create a sustainable art practice? This remains a difficult question – an influx of supply of art, a thinning collectors base and a precarious economy continue to plague the art market, resulting in serious limitations to the growth (or even survival) of artists. If we are to think of the art fair as a sustainable economic model of trade, allowing curators, galleries, collectors and artists to engage in cultural and economic exchange, we begin to see the importance of access into fairs for young and emerging artists, especially those who have been previously excluded and whose work and stories have been rendered irrelevant and invisible. In this sense, projects such as Tomorrows/Today function as an entry point – providing soft power to artists represented and opening up access to both the primary art market where physical work can be bought and sold for the first time as well as potential additional revenue streams through publications, collaborations, invitations to speak etc. The Investec Cape Town Art Fair – the largest fair of its kind on the continent – boasts 100 gallerists and over 15 000 visitors and 2 815 invited guests.
Medina Dugger, Aqua Suku from the series CHROMA, 2017. Fibre Pigment Print on Dibond. Courtesy of the artist & Art Twenty One.
ART AFRICA spoke to curator Tumelo Mosaka, who offers insights into his selection for TOMORROWS/TODAY.
ART AFRICA: How has the Tomorrows/Today special project of the Investec Cape Town Art Fair evolved since its inception?
Tumelo Mosaka: Each year the presentations become a lot more precise and unified in terms of concept. Also, I think the cash prize awards have been a great incentive and now we are also offering an exhibition at Zeitz MOCAA to anchor the project. All these efforts have raised the bar, making it more competitive to participate.
The selection represents a wide range of mediums. Can you give you us a bit of insight in terms of your reflections on different mediums in relation to their importance in art history?
It has been important for me to have this spectrum of mediums represented at the fair. What I find important is the choice of material and their treatments. Take Ihosvanny from Angola whose paintings and drawings capture aspects of the chaos and frustration of urban life. Whereas John-Michael Metelerkamp’s paintings deal more with trauma and anxiety in our everyday lives. They look chaotic but deal more with an introspective viewpoint. I’m not particularly interested in the art history canon, what I care about is how ideas are communicated through art in ways that make us see the world differently.
Michael Cook, Undiscovered 3. Inkjet print on cotton rag, 124 x 100cm. Courtesy of the artist & THIS IS NO FANTASY.
What are your reflections on the role of collectives in the art landscape, particularly in South Africa? Is there room for collectives to be recognised in this section of the fair in the future?
Collectives are important as they arise from a need and become a supportive network for an artist. They also provide agency for artists who are disenfranchised. It is rare to find collectives within the art fair, but given the lack of support for arts organizations within the continent, collectives such as NJE from Namibia play an important role in terms of fostering dialogue and providing exposure to artists from their region. We recognize this need and see ourselves as being more than just a market place.
TOMORROWS/TODAY cites one of its objectives as ‘becoming a Launchpad for emerging artists; what does this mean exactly?
By participating in this platform, this already provides a broad audience for the artists’ works. Not only from local and international collectors but also the general public who might not typically visit galleries. We also have a web presence working with Artsy – the online platform for collecting and discovering art – which allows for access to both American and European markets. This year, the TOMORROWS/TODAY prize will also include an exhibition at Zeitz MOCAA, this further extends exposure for the artist.
Armand Boua, Les vièx môgô (Les grand frère), 2017. Acrylic & collage on canvas, 160 x 230cm. Courtesy of the artist & LKB/G.
What are the necessary conditions under which an artist can create a sustainable art practice?
This remains a difficult question – an influx of supply of art, a thinning collectors base and a precarious economy continue to plague the art market, resulting in serious limitations to the growth (or even survival) of artists. If we are to think of the art fair as a sustainable economic model of trade, allowing curators, galleries, collectors and artists to engage in cultural and economic exchange, we begin to see the importance of access into fairs for young and emerging artists, especially those who have been previously excluded and whose work and stories have been rendered irrelevant and invisible.
What has success for this project looked like, and how do you measure that?
Indeed, how is success measured? Is it by sales or are there other ways to think about growth and maturity? I prefer to look at a few indicators that inform how Tomorrows/Today is having an impact. For one, we’ve seen a lot more applications for this section over the years, the volume of inquiries from collectors has also increased. Both are very positive signs but the success will be in how the artists position their career and only in time will we be able to assess.
Zyma Amien, Unbridled (Detail), 2019. Courtesy of the artist & Art First.
Azael Langa, Shipwrecked, 2019. Courtesy of Julie Miller Investment Art International.