This past week was perhaps the most important of the year for Cape Town’s art and design community, with no less than three major conferences and fairs taking over the city: Design Indaba, Cape Town Art Fair, and Guild Design Fair. With Cape Town having been named World Design Capital for 2014, coupled with the recent announcement of the massive new Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa to be designed by Thomas Heatherwick (scheduled to open in 2016), it’s safe to say there’s never been a more exciting and dynamic time for art and design in Cape Town and that the city has established itself as the continent’s premier destination for these disciplines.
Now in its nineteenth year, Design Indaba is the pioneering Cape Town design event and has come to be recognized as one of the premier design conferences worldwide. It’s a sprawling multidisciplinary affair with film and music programs, conferences, and panels that this year featured such luminaries as David Goldblatt, Henrik Vibskov, and Hans Ulrich Obrist, among many others. The main event is the Expo, which takes place at the Cape Town International Convention Centre. Open to the public, it hosts tens of thousands of visitors and is a sometimes uneven mix of tradeshow and marketplace, with many small artisans and exhibitors selling directly to consumers alongside design competitions and branding initiatives by banks, supermarkets, car companies, and similar large corporate entities. There was also a runway fashion program, organized with the Cape Town Fashion Council, showcasing the work of twenty South African designers over the course of three days.
Hendrik Vermeulen Couture.
One of the highlights of the exhibition was the installation for fashion designer Gavin Rajah by the talented young photographers and videographers Kope | Figgins. Consisting of a looped video presentation framed within a seemingly functional men’s bathroom, this stall stood out by virtue of its simplicity in a sea of product. I particularly enjoyed the baffled expressions of the unsuspecting public as they tried to wrap their heads around the scene.
The Gavin Rajah exhibition by Kope | Figgins.
After taking in the Indaba festival, I headed over to the Cape Town Art Fair and was very pleasantly surprised by what I found there. This was only the second installment of the fair, the first one having taken place in October 2013. I was astonished by the improvement in the quality of exhibitors, galleries, and artists, as well as the overall production value. There was some incredible work on display by most of South Africa’s top galleries, including Goodman Gallery, What if the World, Commune.1 , and many more. Here are some of my favorite pieces from the show.
A piece by Jody Paulsen; Brett Johnson, Africa Maquette.
Stefan Blom, Fly by Night Girl; William Kentridge’s Hope in the Green Leaves.
Photos: Courtesy of Sean Shuter