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Cape Town's art & design adventure

Art and design aficionados from around the globe are descending on Cape Town to attend two world-renowned events, the Investec Cape Town Art Fair and Design Indaba 2020, and also soak up the city’s other extraordinary art offerings as it cements its status as the continent’s creative capital.

Celebrating art in the Cape begins this weekend when the eighth edition of the Investec Cape Town Art Fair returns to the Cape Town International Convention Centre (CTICC). Positioned as the leading art fair in Africa, and now officially the biggest, the Investec Cape Town Art Fair 2020 will include the foremost galleries from South Africa, the African continent and abroad – including the Cape Town CBD’s Eclectica Contemporary, WorldArt, Salon Ninety-One and Gallery MOMO, amongst others.

Two major retrospectives and exhibitions celebrating internationally acclaimed South African artist William Kentridge’s extraordinary career are also on in the city at the moment (at the Zeitz MOCAA and Norval Foundation art museums), as well as the inaugural Stellenbosch Triennale (from 11 February until 30 April).

People in the know are calling this moment the Art of Summer as artists, gallery owners and curators gather to offer the public an extraordinary art adventure beyond the bounds of the imagination, with sculpture, performances, movies, and traditional artworks the order of the day.

Not to be outdone, the three-day Design Indaba 2020 – now in its 25th year – takes place from 26-28 February 2020 at the Artscape Theatre Centre. Voted the Best Conference in the World, Design Indaba 2020 promises a three-day multi-sensory, stimulating and thought-provoking experience featuring “the super creatives who are changing the world”. Think immersive day-talks by illustrious speakers complemented by a festival at night featuring theatre, live music, master classes and exhibitions.


The Investec Cape Town Art Fair will once again offer a unique cross-section of the art market, representing a unique cross-section of contemporary art from around the world.

A third of the exhibitors showcasing their work are new to the event, with close to 40% from the rest of the world. After almost a decade of groundwork, the fair’s consistent drive to bring together galleries and artists from Sub-Saharan Africa, North Africa, the UK, Europe, the USA and the Middle East is yielding wonderful results.

An increasingly large contingent within the art fair is made up of prominent international galleries which represent established as well as emerging artists with a presence in museums, biennales and private art collections around the world.

Interesting participants this year include North African Yosr Ben Ammar Gallery and AGORGI, both from Tunisia, Jahmek Contemporary Art from Angola and Galerie Veronique Rieffel from Ivory Coast, strengthening the fair’s goals to provide a platform for African art.

With so much to see, visitors to the fair are spoiled for choice. While it can be bewildering, fair director Laura Vincenti advises people to research the highlights of the exhibition before they arrive. "This will help you to identify galleries and artworks you would like to see. However, once you get to the fair, you will see a maze of spaces and lots of people. There will probably be a map or guide to the various displays, but allow yourself to wander off the beaten track … there are always gems and surprises along the way,” Laura says.

Laura advises visitors to give themselves time to explore the art fair, “not just an hour, but a whole day or even a whole weekend.”

Cape Town art advisor Phillippa Duncan advises first-time fairgoers to combine a walkabout with their time at the fair. Phillippa says: “The walkabouts will give you both an overview as well as current insight on what to look out for. It’s also a good way to navigate the fair while taking note of what you would like to come back to afterwards. The tours are done via headsets so even if you get side-tracked at a booth you will still be able to hear what they are saying. And don’t forget to pick up a map at the ticket desk when you arrive. There is nothing worse than not being able to find your way back to a booth for a second look.”

Phillippa singles out the Italian galleries, which will be showcasing mega-stars from the Arte Povera movement. “This radical Italian art movement (recognized from the late 1960s to 1970s) saw artists explore the relationship between maker and object. They also sought to break down the social barriers found in artists use of materials in order to question the notion of high art. Seeking out these galleries will be rather like attending a mini-retrospective!” she notes.

Another not-to-miss section is called "Tomorrows/Today”, which is aimed at showcasing emerging or under-recognised artists. “The work of Ernesto Shikhani (Mozambique) of Perve Galeria in Portugal is a poignant reminder of the all-too-familiar plight of some artists. A wonderful visual storyteller, Shikani is a long-ignored artist from Africa who has gained more interest on foreign soil than locally. If contemporary art is too daunting for you, then spend some time in the Past/Modern booths. This is where you will see masterworks with proven and growing collection records in specially curated booths.”


Established in 1955, the extraordinary Design Indaba has evolved into a multidisciplinary platform that celebrates and champions the creative sectors. Speakers at this year’s event have a common purpose: building a better world through creativity. “They allow us to reimagine a world uplifted and transformed through the intervention of creative thinking,” says event publicist Lauren Shantall.

One creative that certainly fits the bill is Dutch fashion designer Bas Timmer, who is changing the world one “Sheltersuit” (an outfit he designed to protect the homeless from the extreme cold after a destitute friend of his father died of hypothermia) at a time. Tested by the homeless, and created from upcycled and recycled materials, the ingenious, durable Sheltersuit is a waterproof and windproof bodysuit with an easily attachable sleeping bag. It is also designed in such a way that if the wearer needs to move from a location quickly, an opening at the bottom of the suit will facilitate it. It can also be stored in a matching backpack during the day. On the strength of seed funding received from Design Indaba, Timmer will be launching Sheltersuit SA at Design Indaba 2020.

Four other visionaries who will change the way we think at Design Indaba 2020 this Summer are:

1. Greek artist, engineer and designer Nassia Inglessis who is at the forefront of experimental design. Known for her kinetic installations that transform to “act as a physical megaphone to human presence”, her installations are live experimentations of what she calls “augmented materiality”.

2. Hugely popular futurist Li Edelkoort is back and will host seminars in both Cape Town and Johannesburg on 25 and 29 February. This year the green revolution is on her mind, and she will also discuss food as the newest design discipline.

3. Ibraham Mahama is the youngest artist to exhibit at the Venice Biennale: he is known for his spectacular installations that represent the fabric of Ghanaian life.

4. Neri&Hu aka Lyndon Neri and Rossana Hu are a dynamic married couple as well as Asia’s hottest architects. Based in Shanghai, their inter-disciplinary architectural design practice is known globally. Apart from their extraordinary designs they also collaborate with brands at Milan Design Week every year. Interior, furniture, branding and product design all fall within their gamut of work, which is shaping the visual Chinese identity.

IMAGES: Investec Cape Town Art Fair, Design Indaba, Nina Lieska