TOMORROWS/TODAY ushers in new perspectives on African art practices and its exhibition

Investec Cape Town Art Fair
Jan 31, 2020 1:52pm
Ernesto Shikhani, Untitled, 2003. Image Courtesy Perve Galeria

Ernesto Shikhani, Untitled, 2003. Image Courtesy Perve Galeria

The Investec Cape Town Art Fair 2020, which will run from 14-16 February 2020 at the Cape Town International Convention Centre (CTICC), is an experience that is constantly evolving, from year to year, to accommodate the changing dynamics of the local and international art scene.
One progression is TOMORROWS/TODAY, one of the main art fair sections that leads each edition. Structured as a curated exhibition, with a prestigious award attached, it is a portal to new visions in the visual arts. The aim of TOMORROWS/TODAY has, from its inception, also been to shine a light on emerging and under-represented artists, set to be tomorrow’s leading names. It is open to those working on and beyond the African continent and as the title implies, the ongoing theme is one of transformation, and experimentation showcasing unorthodox art forms addressing current social and political issues.
TOMORROWS/TODAY 2020 guest co-curators Nkule Mabaso (Curator at Michaelis Galleries, Cape Town) and Luigi Fassi (Artistic Director of MAN Contemporary Art Museum in Nuoro, Italy) have been made responsible for presenting a cross-section of the most exciting and emerging and less known artists from Africa, the Diaspora and the world.
Artists that will be showcased in the section are Danica Lundy (USA) of Gallery C+N Canepaneri in Italy, Amanda Mushate (Zimbabwe) of First Floor Gallery in Zimbabwe, François-Xavier Gbré (France) of Gallery Cecile Fakhoury in Paris, Andy Robert (USA) of Hannah Hoffman in Los Angeles, Fathi Hassan (Egypt) of Gallery Lawry Shabibi in Dubai, Ernesto Shikhani (Mozambique) of Perve Galeria in Portugal, Nnenna Okore (Australia) of Gallery Sakhile&Me in Germany, Gregory Olympio (Togo) of Septieme Gallery in Paris, Bonolo Kavula (South Africa) of Suburbia Contemporary in Spain and Isabelle Grobler (South Africa) of Sulger-Buel Gallery in UK.
The Process
The selection process has meant that Mabaso and Fassi have engaged with galleries on and beyond the African continent in search of artists, and works, that speak directly to African art practices, or that express what it means to be an artist of African descent working outside of the continent, today.
“Normally the focus of the section is around emerging artists,” Mabaso says. “But while that generally refers to young artists that are newly signed to galleries, but who are not well established in their careers, we wanted to stretch that and look at it more as ‘emerging’ in the sense that they may not be well known in South Africa. That would mean that they are emerging in the sense that we need to become familiar with them. They are unknown to us, but they may well be professional and established where they come from.”
About the process from the point of view of all interest groups, Fassi says, “There are basically three parallel stories that intersect: there is the story of the participating artists who we have invited; the supporting galleries and of the curators.
“The exhibition is then the outcome of the intersection of these three stories – people coming from different backgrounds and playing different roles. Because the role of the galleries is to back the invited artists, to support them, it is a different dynamic than that of the artists.”
TOMORROWS/TODAY, in 2020, will not be based on one particular theme, reflecting the diverse interests of artists of Africa, and of African descent.
According to Mabaso,In terms of the content of each artist’s practice I don’t think that each artist responds to subject matter in the same way. We wanted to balance the artistic output across the mediums, so you’ve got painters, installation and sculpture.
“We didn’t put the group together with any guiding thematic. We didn’t create a theme because we had to balance different interests – our own interests, the galleries’ interests and the interests of the fair.
“The audience of the fair will, in turn, be able to see for themselves what the themes are that are emerging, and if they find it enlightening. But if they understand how it is organized and it is set up, and what we mean by ‘emerging’, then they will understand how it is structured.”
According to Fassi, “We have crafted the section by interpreting the idea of African identity in a more complex way than just the biography of being born in Africa, or living in Africa, or being based here. So we have involved artists that share some clear connections to an African culture, even if you are not necessarily 100 percent African, or based there.
“I think the section will offer people a more detailed and more complex understanding of African art at large, nowadays, on another level, even considering the fact that a number of galleries supporting the artists are not African at all. They are galleries and artists from Europe, they are galleries from the US, UAE, UK, Africa, as well as South Africa.
“The overall ambition is to offer to the audience some urgencies that come out of the presented works, that are able to convey to the art world an understanding of the complexity of their art practices.
“The artists in the section do deal with their African identity regardless of how diverse that is. This is quite important because, for a number of ‘Western’ people coming to Cape Town, to see the fair, not all of them are familiar with what’s going on in the continent.
“We cannot embrace the ambition of offering a statement that embraces African art. That would go beyond our scope. However, I think there are some strong positions that TOMORROWS/TODAY will be able to convey: an understanding of some of the urgencies going on in contemporary African Art. And at the end of the day this is part of the mission of the Investec Cape Town Art Fair.”