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A Q&A with First-Time 2015 FNB JoburgArtFair Curator, Lucy MacGarry


The FNB JoburgArtFair is now in its eighth year. Each year, the arts community – artists, collectors, culture experts and art-lovers alike – from all over Africa and beyond make their way to the Johannesburg metropolis for a one-of-a-kind experience. The Fair is a conceptual visioning of contemporary art in Africa – a space for fresh encounters where new talent is discovered, and enduring talent is recognised.

As of this year, Lucy MacGarry has stepped in as the curator of the FNB JoburgArtFair and, without changing its core aim, she is adding a fresh touch to the proceedings. “We want to continue to make a positive contribution to the local arts industry, while growing our representation of international and African galleries,” she says. “The focus this year has been on encouraging galleries to bring experimental work and competitive presentations.”

With a re-envisioned layout in collaboration with architect firm Studium, the floor will host over 50 exhibitors from seven countries including South Africa, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, France, Germany, Spain and the United Kingdom.

In anticipation for the Fair from 11 – 13 September 2015, Lucy MacGarry speaks about the curatorial process, why film and performance forms the focus, what aspiring collectors should keep in mind and what she’s looking forward to.

Lucy MacGarry (8)

This has been your first year curating the FNB JoburgArtFair. What has the process entailed?

Celebrating its 8th edition this year, the FNB JoburgArtFair has a long and successful history of attracting quality galleries and loyal audiences. Fortunately for me, this means that I have been able to direct my efforts to making sure, with the help of our Selection Committee, that the most compelling artworks have a place in the show, developing new platforms and further growing the international profile of the Fair. As Africa’s most established annual art event, the programme must strike between allowing market tendencies to structure the event and presenting a carefully curated experience for audiences.

What I have found exciting is the careful curatorial approach that galleries are taking with the selection of the artists and presentations of works. I have also been closely involved in establishing a formal Advisory Committee for the first time this year and it has been a rewarding experience to work closely with thought-leaders such as Koyo Kouoh (RAW Material Company, Dakar), Bisi Silva (Centre for Contemporary Art, Lagos), Karolina Ziębińska-Lewandowska (Centre Pompidou, Paris) and Zoe Whitley (TATE, London) in growing the international profile of the Fair.

The Johannesburg Pavilion was an important satellite project launched this year in partnership with the 133 Arts Foundation and the City of Joburg. The project, that debuted at the 56th Venice Biennale, was initiated to provide sustainable exposure for the experimental – largely film and performance-based – practice of African artists abroad.

Why have you decided to focus on video and performance this year?

This year’s Special Project focus is to embrace the radical growth in temporal and time-based work in the art world. While performance and film may not appear to some to be directly related to the strictly commercial function of the fair, audiences are becoming more and more aware of the processes that afford such works’ value. Engaging the audience with dynamic content is also imperative at a cultural event such as the FNB JoburgArtFair. As a result, a central theatre will host a programme of film screenings, performances and talks making the fair experience a more diversified and multifaceted experience.

Which artists or projects are you excited to have as part of this year’s programme?

Our Featured Artist this year is Candice Breitz. Breitz masterfully combines the modes of film and performance installation ‘Him + Her’ – marking its inaugural showing in South Africa.

The performance programme is jam packed with artists ranging from the emerging South African, Kieron Jina to the internationally acclaimed Mamela Nyamza. Benjamin Patterson, an American musician, artist and one of the founders of the Fluxus movement is also making a rare appearance.

International film content forms an important component of this year’s programme. The prestigious Short Film Festival Oberhausen will be screening a series of works courtesy of the Goethe-Institut. In addition, Loop Barcelona will show their 2015 Discovery Award finalists’ works, while the artists of the Johannesburg Pavilion will debut new work created in-situ during the 56th Venice Biennale.

Talks offer the audience access to the thinking of important artworld players – artists, curators, critics and collectors – who offer their unique perspectives on producing, collecting and exhibiting art. Highlights on the programme include the panel ‘Collecting the Intangible: New Strategies for Acquisition’ led by A4 Art Foundation Curator, Joshua Ginsburg; a conversation between Featured Artist Candice Breitz and Tate Curator of International Art, Zoe Whitley; and ‘Curatorial Experiments and the Development of Ideas’ by Art Basel’s 2016 Parcours Curator, Samuel Leuenberger. The panel discussion, ‘Art Publishing on the Continent’ is complemented by the talk ‘Print is Not Dead’ by infamous German publisher, Gerhard Steidl.

South African artist Turiya Magadlela (born 1978) takes the FNB Art Prize honours this year and will present a large-scale installation comprising a grid of steel institutional beds arranged in a cell-like constellation, made over in correctional service fabrics.

We are also excited to work with Absolut Vodka and artist, Cameron Platter to create the first Art Bar in South Africa and our new FNB Private Wealth VIP Lounge will be real destination with a curated exhibition of African Modernists courtesy of the Avedia Foundation. Lastly, a full programme of events hosted on and off-site by Egon Zehnder complements this year’s VIP experience.

What advice would you give to someone looking to start their own art collection?

The FNB JoburgArtFair is an engaging and convenient way to catch a glimpse of all that is going on in contemporary African art from the continent and diaspora. Paintings, sculptures, installations, photographs, films, and editioned works of the highest quality are on display. So my advice is to spend time engaging with particular artworks that resonate with you, make meaningful connections with artists and galleries and invest in critical literature. The better educated you are, the better collection you’ll have. If you fall in love with an artwork, all you have to do is figure out if you can afford it. If you’re buying with an eye toward investment, your instincts may need to be supported by some further expert advice on hand at the fair.

What were some of the highlights in planning the 2015 Fair?

To help visitors navigate our full programme, we have introduced a few new categories. Besides the Galleries section, exhibitions are organised into Young Galleries, Gallery Solo Projects, Art Platforms, Limited Editions and Publications. Young Galleries is the category for new galleries younger than three years old, while Art Platforms focuses on not-for-profit arts entities and educational establishments.

Gallery Solo Projects offers solo shows for rising stars. In seeing a fuller range of work by one artist, visitors to the Fair gain a greater insight into the thematic concerns and methods of that particular artist. This new section has been particularly interesting and I have enjoyed working closely with participating galleries in the conceiving of these solo presentations.

The Limited Editions section has also been well received and some of the country’s leading printmaking studios are excited to use the fair as an opportunity to grow their audiences. Lastly, Publications provides visitors with access to the latest in art books and magazines. Editors and publishers also contribute to our Talks programme.

Lucy MacGarry

Visit the FNB JoburgArtFair from 11 – 13 September 2015 at the Sandton Convention Centre.

Opening Times:
Friday 11 September from 11am – 8pm
Saturday 12 September from 10am – 6pm
Sunday 13 September from 10am – 5pm

R500 for Thursday night’s Opening Preview Party
R100 on Friday
R130 on Saturday / Sunday
R260 for a Weekend Pass

Buy tickets online or at the door.

Between 10 and 5