Joburg Art Fair 2010

#193 Look forward to one of my favourite events in this city – the Joburg Art Fair. Now in its third year the Fair has done for Joburg what the Design Indaba has done for Cape Town – made the city the capital of edgy contemporary hip-ness for a few glorious days. Last week I got a chance to talk to its founder, Ross Douglas of ArtLogic at his office/home — a real urban fashion statement in Milpark overlooking the huge circular tower of Egoli Gas.

Lawrence Lemaoana's Dancers on the Wall, 2009

Lawrence Lemaoana's Dancers on the Wall, 2009

Douglas previously co-produced William Kentridge’s 9 Drawings for Projection, and worked in film and TV. He came to setting up the Art Fair “through a strange series of steps” and was determined to see if he could wrest some sponsorship for an art event in a country where the big corporate money had long been earmarked for sport. The Fair was conceived of as a place where corporate South Africa and the contemporary art world should meet.
When he first started selling the idea one famous gallery owner remarked “I don’t know if anyone will come to that“.
An introduction to Paul Harris, First Rand CEO – FNB has been the Fair’s major sponsor since its inception – was the catalyst.
The challenges of holding an Art Fair in South Africa are not small. “How do you position an Art Fair in Africa?” says Douglas. For one thing there is no neighbouring art industry. Unlike in Europe, the US or South America the continent does not have a gallery system and most people’s perception of African art is that it is “craft”. The Joburg Art Fair was determined to change that – to shift the focus away from the folksy cliches of tourist art and onto contemporary work – art that makes a statement about “the time we live in and the place we live in”.
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Glass design to make your heart smelt

#176. Hum David Bowie’s “Oh you pretty things” while visiting Smelt, the glass studio in Bamboo Centre, Melville. Lots of jewel-coloured hearts and stars, baubles and lamps.

Glass lamps from Smelt

Glass lamps from Smelt

Bamboo Centre has been around so long I forgot what a Joburg gem it was until a friend told me how she had taken her Cape Town visitor there to impress her this weekend – and it worked. So here goes:

Five more good reasons to hang out at Bamboo include:
Love Books, the city’s newest independent book store where you can order wine by the glass, sit back in your chair and browse an eclectic mix of international magazines not seen in many other local stores
Tinsel, where you can spend lots of moolah (and you will) on great South African designed contemporary jewellery
Black Coffee, where the local design duo who seem to have wowed Berlin and New York sell their crafted couture
Service Station for breakfast (probably the best scrambled eggs in the city) and lunch and any meal in between
and the farmer’s market on the first Saturday of every month (for this one I am relying on good authority because getting there by 7am is not top of my weekend agenda)

So there you have it! What’s stopping you?

* For more on Smelt go here. And to find Bamboo online click here.