Talking About Art at the Turbine Art Fair

Carolyn Parton | Lovell Contemporary

Carolyn Parton | Lovell Contemporary

 

The second Turbine Art Fair is coming up and one of the key features of the event is the exciting Talks Programme, hosted by Usha Seejarim. These interactive, open-to-all informal discussions are invaluable to both experienced and first-time art collectors alike. Leading industry experts and practitioners will share their insights and experience of the art world with a strong educational focus in keeping with the theme of making art more accessible to more people. We chat briefly to Usha, to find out more about the talks, and the importance of breaking down perceived barriers to contemporary art.

 

Usha Seejarim

Usha Seejarim

 

You’ve been involved in the discussion around art and accessibility for some time now. What initially sparked your interest in this topic? 

 

About two years ago I was feeling very stuck in my career as an artist. Not stuck in my art making but in the understanding of the bigger picture in term of the workings of the art world. I approached a few prominent people in the industry and had informal conversations with them. I recorded these conversations and found them to be incredibly helpful. I felt inspired by them. I then thought that this kind of content should be available to others as well. That is how the Art of Access was born in 2013, where I interviewed 14 contemporary industry experts about various elements within the art world. These talks were accessible for free for a limited time on an on-line platform.

 

Key to these discussions was the notion of access. The contemporary art world can often seem unfriendly, exclusive, daunting and inaccessible. Besides the content of the talks, just having a conversation with people who are often not so easy to get to was a point of access already.

 

 

Now in its second year, what do you think the Turbine Art Fair is contributing to the local art scene?

 

The Turbine Art Fair fills a much needed gap. It creates the context and opportunity for new collectors, new buyers, emerging artists and new markets. I was struck by the audience last year, which included numerous young parents with children, and most of them were leaving with a few artworks purchased. I am aware of how different this audience is to other contemporary art events.

 

For emerging artists, there are limited platforms where their art can be exhibited and where their art can be bought. The Turbine Art Fair provides this opportunity for younger artists where their work can get exposure in a professional context where the potential for big opportunities exist.

 

 

Is affordability the only barrier to collecting art?

 

Most definitely not. In fact, the only barrier to collecting art, in my view, is a perceived lack of confidence in one’s own ability to purchase “good” art. There are collectors who buy what they are drawn to regardless of “trend” and others who want to start a collection but are insecure about what to buy. There are many ways for collectors to get educated about buying art, but in my view, one should respond to artwork that stirs something in you. If an artwork speaks to you, then even if the price is out of your range at least you know who to follow or use it as a starting point towards finding similar work – or you have something to work towards.

 

Nicolaas Maritz | Kalk Bay Modern

Nicolaas Maritz | Kalk Bay Modern

Stephen Hobbs | Davit Krut Projects

Stephen Hobbs | Davit Krut Projects

 

There will be an installation, video and performance art component at this year’s TAF. These are typically less accessible art forms, as well as difficult to pin a ‘price’ onto. How do these less traditional art forms factor into the accessibility discussion?

 

These art forms are supposedly less accessible simply because they are less prominent for a South African audience. It is exactly why this kind of work needs to have a presence at an event like the Turbine Art Fair. Like any artwork, installation, video or performance works are read in terms of concept, subject, context, and even the basic elements of art; line, texture, composition etc. Viewers sometimes feel foreign to this kind of work, but the content is merely packaged in another medium and makes for a new experience if the viewer allows it.

 

It is challenging to attach a commercial value to some of these works, but artists have been doing this for a number of decades now. Documentation of performances, process material, remnants….all these become endowed with value and some of these elements are made available for sale depending on the artists and the artwork. The issue here is more about exposure than accessibility. Again, there are limited platforms, particularly in a South African context where less traditional and less commercial art forms can be “exhibited” or performed, and the Turbine art Fair’s decision to include these should be encouraged.

 

 

How have you gone about selecting the speakers for this year’s Talk Programme, and what is the overarching message you hope the series will convey?

 

A lot of thought and discussion has gone into the selection of speakers. The concept is very loosely based on Sarah Thornton’s book Seven Days in the Art World, where we have representations from various sectors of the industry; an artist, a collector, auctioneer, etc. There are a number of overlaps, where for example, Sam Nghlengetwa is an artist who owns a substantial personal art collection. The overarching intention is one of openness and comfort where artists are inspired and feel directed towards their art production, young collectors feel more confident in their approach to artwork and the viewer feels a bit more educated in their interpretation of contemporary art.

 

Karin Lijnes | Lovell Contemporary

Karin Lijnes | Lovell Contemporary

Judy Woodborne | The South African Print Gallery

Judy Woodborne | The South African Print Gallery

 

Who should attend the talks and why?

 

The talks are targeted at both the expert and novice art lover. The tone of the talks is purposefully conversational, non-academic and accessible to an audience that may or may not be contemporary art literate.

 

The kind of material shared at these talks is absolutely invaluable. Advice, lessons learned, tips and ticks of the trade come directly from the personal experience of individuals who have surpassed challenges in this industry, where many have failed. The nature of content discussed here cannot be found in books or tertiary study and that is why it should be attended by anyone who has an interest in the contemporary art as a practitioner or as a supporter.

 

 

Which artists’ work are you looking forward to seeing at the TAF? 

 

I am looking forward to seeing emerging artists who display fresh ways of art making and also to seeing how these works have been curated to create new meaning.

 

 

Which artist’s work are you collecting and why?

 

As a practice, I have bought a work from many friends / artists / students from their first solo exhibition. This was my way of supporting their career. Some have continued to make art and some have not. Thus, I own a small and modest collection of work.

 

Since the talks on the Art of Access last year, I have become acutely aware of the need to collect both my own work and other of my contemporaries. I have thus consciously kept salient works of my own as part of my own collection and I am in the process of exchanging work with other artist. Thus, I am now also aware of my work as currency, which many artists in particular underestimate.

 

And the reason for collecting……the shear beauty of acknowledging an artist’s perception of their world and their ability to articulate it visually.

 

 

What do you hope visitors will take away from their visit to this year’s TAF? That emerging art can be very exciting, that …

 

That it is accessible, that it can be inspiring, thought provoking…and even fun.

 

Clare Menck | The South African Print Gallery

Clare Menck | The South African Print Gallery

Theo Paul Vorster | The South African Print Gallery

Theo Paul Vorster | The South African Print Gallery

Heidi Fourie | Lizamore & Associates Gallery

Heidi Fourie | Lizamore & Associates Gallery

Ceramics | Art in the Forest

Ceramics | Art in the Forest

 

This year’s Talks programme will include:

  • Ruarc Peffers (Strauss and Co. Fine Art Auctioneers)
  • Sam Nhlengethwa (Artist)
  • Warren Siebrits (Collector)
  • Tamsin Lovell (Gallerist)
  • Brendon Bell Roberts (Publisher)
  • Koulla Xinisteris (Art Consultant)
  • Dr Oupa Morari (Collector)
  • Phillipe van der Merwe (Tonic Design)

 

Visit the Turbine Art Fair website for more information, like the Facebook page to stay updated on what’s happening, and buy your tickets online now to enjoy an early-bird discount.

 

Turbine Art Fair



Between 10 and 5