The Investec Cape Town Art Fair

Connecting the world through various artforms. Thoughts on the happenings of the first-ever digital exhibitions of the Investec Cape Town Art Fair and insights from a featured artist.

By Silulundi Coki (Varsity Contributor)

In the painting “Night Swim” (the artwork pictured above), the artist depicts a woman rising from the murky waters with an expressive open palm motion, as natural for her to blossom as graciously as the lotus. In this scenario, murk represents a woman’s struggle, yet water also represents spirituality and rebirth, as well as a place to connect with nature and express heartfelt wishes. A night swim can also suggest a rooted identity and emancipated purpose to restart by embracing her body without judgment.

The artwork in question is by Leila Rose Fanner, a South African artist whose work was on display under Deepest Darkest Art Gallery, at the Investec Cape Town Art Fair from September 17th to September 19th, 2021. Fanner remarked that her work is more about a reflection of the feminine energy or essence: the creative power that also provides nurture and comfort.

The Investec Cape Town Art Fair, the first digital art fair, is based on showcasing visual art, with the goal of portraying the message and providing information to the audience in real-time through digital media. Through this approach, the audience is connected to the artist and their inspired imaginations, this being depicted through their artworks shown. Such art enriched the visitors’ experience throughout the duration of the novel event. The content was collected by the curators mainly in galleries, who go into great detail with symbolism and meaning whilst making it easy to understand for people who do not use ‘art’ terms to formally understand and interpret the artworks on display. 

Despite these efforts, local artist Fanner remarked that a small image online, unfortunately, does not do justice to the work. The way the art was displayed online was not immersive enough to translate the scale of the work nor the complexity in textures and depth behind each art piece. 

The lacklustre showcases to potential collectors were a major point of discontent for artists, including Fanner, who had hoped for a prominent gathering of collectors who show appreciation and consideration for an artist and their work. The presence of collectors was not as widespread as compared to other media sources which were abundant due to the immense build-up of the event on social media.

The Art Fair tried to do justice by simulating an experience of an actual physical event, but, like most aspects of life severely affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, it was just not the same. With three large galleries like Loop Gallery, SMAC Gallery, and Galerie Véronique Reiffel featured, it was a formidable event, garnering a collaboration with miart contemporary art fair in Milan to reach a larger audience.

The narrative of art is complex and being exhibited in the digital realm is important to many budding and established artists to share their vision with the rest of the world. For Fanner, this vision is to “evoke the ethereal world of spiritual aspirations” through abstract representations of the “dream or unseen” world, filled with visions of South African flora and fauna. Her work can be viewed on her website and her Instagram page

The next physical Investec Cape Town Art Fair will take place on 18-20 February 2022, with the preview taking place on Thursday, 17 February 2022. Fanner felt like the 3 days of online access was too short and puts unnecessary gateways in the way of spectators. The arrangement and the presentation of the 2021 digital fair can be improved upon with input from participating artists and other successful virtual fairs, which leads to many speculations of what the future holds for the 2022 rendition of the event.

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