Joburg Art Fair – Take 2

#90. Get ready for the Joburg Art Fair that comes back to town on April 3, and this year’s event  promises to be even more spectacular than the first one. Last year I fell in love with work from Dale Yudelman’s series ‘I am ‘ that showcased beautiful photographic portraits of immigrants — mostly Zimbabwean and Malawian — to this city with the notes they leave asking for work.

Interviewed for Artthrob Yudelman said: ‘Each note had its own character, the paper torn, placed or jammed onto the board, sometimes even with chewing gum! Seeing something handwritten, in a time where we don’t see much handwriting, revealed a lot to me.’

The portraits captured the dignity of people who had left behind their own countries, their homes, in search of a better life  — sadly it was people like these who one month later would become the victims of a spate of xenophobic attacks that left this city reeling.

Yudelman said: ‘This is about finding humility in other people’s struggles. The series also enabled me to tackle the impact of technology on our lives and our notion of a collective. We tend to become very isolated with technology. We have fewer one-on-one-conversations as they shift and take place via cellphone and emails. Most people’s lives happen on Facebook instead of out on the street!’

The fair is a showcase for contemporary African art, the only one on a continent that is exploding with talent. But more than that it takes the pulse of the place. This year it promises to show the work of around  400 artists with talks by a line-up that includes photographer Mikhael Subotzky (who made his name with a series of photographs capturing life inside Pollsmoor Prison and when last seen at an Obama party in Troyeville was working on photographing one of Joburg’s key landmarks, Ponte) and another favourite, former rugby player turned stitch artist Lawrence Lemaoana, a children’s programme and book lounge.

The prices, I am told will range from a few hundred rand to a few million.

I didn’t leave with a Yudelman last year — after a gentle rebuke from my house and life mate that my taste in art is sad and disturbing. I am not so sure it’s my taste as it is our reality. But here’s to second takes.

* The Joburg Art Fair runs from April 3-5 at the Sandton Convention Centre. To see the programme click here to go to the site (badly in need of some good design principles but worth persevering for the content).

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