Big spenders at art fair

Edward Tsumele

Edward Tsumele

The opening night of the highly-rated Joburg Art Fair at the Sandton Convention Centre has shown that there is great economic potential in the arts.

Given a chance, the arts, like any other sector in the country, could create employment and put food on the tables for many families.

Eccentric artists and people in expensive outfits splashed big bucks on paintings by Gerard Sekoto and Zwelethu Mthetwa.

On Thursday, the opening night, tickets cost R400 a person and the big art spenders came to buy, not just look at and admire, Africa's contemporary art.

More than 20 galleries were represented at Africa's first contemporary art fair.

Every visual artist of note from the African continent was there and so was every curator of note.

The art was as fascinating as the characters who created it.

For people who appreciate art but do not know how to distinguish between good and bad art, Gauteng Premier Mbhazima Shilowa, who officially opened the fair, had the answer.

"To those who, like me, do not understand art, I say, just buy and find a good spot for the work in your home, that is all," Shilowa said to laughter from the audience.

Though the organisers made sure that there was enough wine for the guests, some artists brought their own beverages.

Some of the works were really strange, like the series of three pictures by photographer Pieter Hugo.

They showed a Nigerian man in tattered clothes and worn takkies riding a hyena. I'm not kidding you.

I can bet that in some communities, which I do not care to mention, that rider and the artist would both be dead meat and be accused of all sorts of horrible and unprintable things.

But Hugo's pictures were a hit with the people at the fair.

The Joburg Art Fair was organised by Art Logic and it was sponsored by FNB to the tune of R7million.