29 November 2012 by Dianne Tipping-Woods

Art Week Cape Town

The inaugural edition of what will become an annual regional contemporary art programme, Art Week Cape Town is pioneering new ways to bring exposure to Cape Town’s thriving visual-art scene.

'It’s an intense and comprehensive offering of the best of local contemporary art,' says Anthea Buys, director of the Contemporary Art Development Trust (CADT) and co-organiser of Art Week Cape Town, the week-long art programme that plays an important role to play in addressing the visual art gap on the Cape Town cultural calendar.

'Although there are a number of arts programmes already running annually in the Western Cape, their emphasis tends to be on performance and design,' she explains. As contemporary visual art doesn't really fit into either of these categories, it’s often excluded, despite the fact that the city’s contemporary art scene is a vibrant one.

Gerda Scheepers, Installation view, blank projects, 2012 (copyright the artist and blank projects) Gerda Scheepers, Installation view, blank projects, 2012 (copyright the artist and blank projects)

'We want to open this scene up, creating connections between it and the other creative sectors,' says Buys.

It's also unique in South Africa in that it's based on a very successful event model first used in Berlin.

This model will hopefully allow Art Week Cape Town to become sustainable from within the art scene, by sourcing programming, publicity and some financial support from within this scene.

'It is like a real-life, event-based wiki,' says Buys, 'because the content of the event is all user-generated. This means that as long as it has users who are willing to keep it alive, it should thrive.'

The participating organisations are all responsible for arranging their own programmes. Unlike many other festivals, where there is curatorial intervention from a single source, CADT has left the mandate open to event participants. 'We don't take credit for their work, but we do encourage them to use the Art Week infrastructure with a view to collectively creating an event that will become a major attraction for contemporary art lovers in South Africa and abroad,' says Buys.

While the CADT’s role is an administrative one, it’s also about getting participants, and the public, on board.

'To the uninitiated, the contemporary art scene can seem intimidating,' says Jonathan Garnham, director of Blank Projects and co-organiser of Art Week Cape Town. 'By coordinating as many events as possible within a short frame of time, we aim to make openings, viewings, walkabouts and other events more widely accessible.'

It is like a real-life, event-based wiki, because the content of the event is all user-generated. This means that as long as it has users who are willing to keep it alive, it should thrive.

There is also a celebratory element to the programme in that most of the galleries are opening their year-end shows during the week, and they hope to capitalise on this energy and make it fun.

Many of Cape Town’s strongest galleries and art institutions provide the backbone of support the event needs to carry the project forward.

Some of the galleries on board are Stevenson, Blank Projects, Whatiftheworld, the Goodman Gallery, SMAC Gallery, BRUNDYN + GONZALVES and the AVA Gallery.

'And we have also partnered with three independent projects whose events form part of the Art Week programme,' says Buys. These are ArtWalk, which is an initiative coordinating open studios in Woodstock, Salt River and Observatory on November 30 and December 1; the Maboneng Township Arts Experience, which was a festival of art exhibitions and performances in homes and yards in Gugulethu on November 24 and 25; and the GIPCA Live Art Festival, which is South Africa's first-ever festival of live art (including performance and event-based art), from November 30 to December 5.

The Iziko South African National Gallery is also participating, with the opening of the Standard Bank Young Artist Award exhibition, Mikhael Subotzky's Retinal Shift (which opened on 28 November).

Art Week Cape Town launched with the Maboneng Township Arts Experience last weekend, a new and wonderful experience for many visitors. 'It was very exciting to see the potential that exists in momentarily shifting the focus of the contemporary art scene away from the city centre,' says Buys. 'The launch party, which took place at a local braai spot called Mzoli's, was unconventional, but loads of fun.'

Another highlight has been the Goodman Gallery-hosted lecture by art historian Federico Freschi on the topic of contemporary art in South Africa, which was a great introduction to some of the exhibitions that are opening throughout the rest of the week.

Other highlights include the combined openings of the Woodstock galleries on the evening of 29 November; a walkabout of Mikhael Subotzky's show at the National Gallery on Saturday 1 December at 2pm; and an after party at It's a House, a beautiful new multi-use creative space in De Waterkant, on December 5.

Because of the short duration of the programme and its extensive offering of events, it is perfectly suited to visitors wanting a high-quality introduction to South African art. 'It is also a perfect opportunity for art enthusiasts to catch up on the latest developments in local contemporary art, and to network with artists, curators, collectors and gallerists,' says Garnham.

For more information about Art Week Cape Town, visit its website: www.artweek.co.za

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