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Getting to grips with Art Joburg's insularity

Blank Project's stand at Art Joburg. Image by Karabo Mooki

Why did the Joburg Art Fair, now Art Joburg lose its pan-African, international persona?

When the Joburg Art Fair (JAF) was established in 2008 it was advanced by Artlogic as a pan-African platform. At the time, this guiding ethos was difficult to achieve, given there were so few commercial galleries on the continent and those with the resources to participate. Yet over the years, the commercial art circuit grew in art capitals in Africa. From 2007 approximately (we are still collating this figure) 47 new commercial galleries (excluding South Africa) have opened on the African continent. More and more African galleries, particularly those geographically close to Johannesburg, from Zimbabwe, Angola and Mozambique – where there are less evolved art ecosystems - came to rely on JAF to reach new buyers. As the graphs in our Snap Report: Joburg Art Fairs 2019 show in the years 2017 and 2018, participation by African galleries was at its highest, though South African galleries dominated.

JAF was the first art fair on the continent and was seen as the most influential in South Africa (Art X Lagos and 1:54 Marrakech are the two other important fairs on the continent), until the Cape Town Art Fair (CTAF) began g