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Make the Most of Art at the Cape Town Art Fair

More than 70 art galleries from around the world are exhibiting a rich diversity of works at the Cape Town Art Fair (CTAF), which has grown to become the leading international contemporary art exhibition in Africa.

Now in its fifth edition, the CTAF is being held at the Cape Town International Convention Centre from February 17 to 19. Produced by Fiera Milano Exhibitions Africa of the Fiera Milano Group, one of the world’s leading events companies, the CTAF includes an extensive programme of curated exhibitions, special features, talks, guided walkabouts, a digital media platform and outdoor activations that will ignite the nearby V&A Waterfront precinct.

More than 20 international galleries are part of the 2017 selection, which includes galleries such as Galerie Seippel and ARTCO Gallery from Germany; Tiwani Contemporary, Art First and October Gallery from London; Galerie Caroline Smulders, France; Galerie Pascal Janssens, Belgium; and Galleria Continua, Galleria Massimo Minini and Primo Marella from Italy.

Participating galleries regarded as the most representative of the African continent’s contemporary art scene include Addis Fine Art from Ethiopia, Afriart (Uganda), Art Twenty One (Nigeria), First Floor (Zimbabwe), Gallery 1957 (Ghana) and Galerie Cecile Fakhoury from Ivory Coast. South African galleries include Stevenson, Goodman, SMAC, Gallery MOMO, Everard Read, blank projects, WHATIFTHEWORLD and SMITH.


Art museums and cultural institutions will also exhibit works in a dedicated section called Cultural Platforms.

A highlight in 2016 and once again a key feature of the event is the special project titled Tomorrows/Today curated by leading South African-born international curator Tumelo Mosaka who was appointed as the CTAF curator last year. Tomorrows/Today features solo presentations by emerging artists from Africa and the African Diaspora, all of which have been chosen by Mosaka as being representative of the continent’s most thought-provoking young voices.

Another special feature for fairgoers to look forward to is the Unframed section, which will feature large-scale installations and sculptures and has been conceived to encourage visitors to engage with the art. Five ambitious projects proposed by artists from four of South Africa’s leading galleries will be dispersed throughout the fair floor to create a number of points of interest.

With so much to see, fairgoers will be spoiled for choice, with many possibly feeling bewildered or intimidated by the scale of the event. Ernestine White, acting director of art collections at the National Gallery, offers some pointers on how to make the best of a visit to an art fair and how to go about starting your own art collection.


Do some homework

Your starting point is not the art fair; it’s the internet. Art fair websites usually contain information on highlights of the exhibition, such as notable galleries that are showcasing on the fair, art works, artists, talks, workshops and special events.  Websites will often have images of art works that will be on display. Your research will help you to identify galleries and art works you would particularly like to see at the fair.

However, once you get to the fair, you will see a maze of spaces and lots of people. There will probably be a map or guide to the various displays, but allow yourself to wander of the beaten track. While you have a good idea of what you particularly want to see, there are always gems and surprises along the way.

Take your time, and lots of it

Give yourself time to explore the art fair: not just an hour, but a whole day or even a whole weekend. Allow yourself to wander around and get a full appreciation of what is being offered. Maybe you can bring some friends along, so the art fair becomes not just an experience in looking at art but an opportunity to socialise and share experiences in a stimulating environment.

Don’t only look

Look out for performance artists. They perform at many art fairs and give you an opportunity to look beyond art works on walls and stands and to become an active participant by interacting with performance artists.

Remember, art is for all

Art fairs are not just for older people. They provide exhilarating opportunities for academics, art students and young people interested in art. Academics and students can engage in discussions about developments in the art world, not just in their own country but in the continent and beyond. Art fairs are also a perfect platform for school learners interested in art as a career to engage in what it means to be an artist.

Look and learn

If you want to buy an artwork or become a collector, an art fair is a great resource that enables you to identify what is available and what is within your means. You can familiarise yourself with the latest developments and trends in the art world by attending talks and workshops at an art fair. You can also identify artists whose work you enjoy, and get to know them.

Buying into the art world

The starting point is to buy a work you really love, either as something you can simply enjoy in your home or as an investment which you could sell at some future time. A great place for beginners to start is on the fringes of an art fair where young artists who are not represented by a gallery often exhibit their work. This can be an enjoyable and affordable way to enter the art world.


If you see art as an investment that will appreciate in time, a gallery is a good starting point. Depending on your means, you can invest in an established artist whose work is bound to appreciate in value or in a promising young artist or artists. Galleries are keen to establish relationships with prospective buyers. Explain to the gallery what you enjoy and what you are prepared to pay. Galleries will keep you informed about works that meet your criteria and you can develop a long-term relationship with them.

The CTAF runs from 17 to 19 February 2017. Tickets are R140 for adults, R100 for students and pensioners and free for under-12s. For more information, visit

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