C Stunners by Cyrus Kabiru, participant in the FNB Joburg Art Fair 2013

Look into the future at the Joburg Art Fair

Ross Douglas, founder of Africa's biggest art fair on why Joburg is firmly among the art cities of the future

"Johannesburg is a hard and demanding environment that stimulates an engaged and creative response," writes Tracy Murinik in our forthcoming book, Art Cities of the Future. "Vibrating with tangible and provocative energy, it does not tolerate indifference well."

Now more and more people will have to make their minds up about the city, as the annual FNB Joburg Art Fair [27 - 29 Sept, at the Sandton Convention Centre] establishes its place in the southern hemisphere's arts calendar. We'll be there this month, to launch Art Cities of the Future, this Friday in booth P05 at 5:30pm with a talk chaired by Ms Murinik and featuring artists from the book's Johannesburg and Lagos chapters, including Zander Blom, Tracey Rose, Dineo Bopape, Minnette Vari, and Temitayo Ogunbiyi. Please come along. Meanwhile, Phaidon.com caught up with the fair's founder, Ross Douglas, who described to us how he's built the event into the continent's largest contemporary fair.

Can you tell us a little about this year's fair?

This is the 6th annual FNB Joburg Art Fair. We have 33 galleries participating and 21 non-commercial Special Projects. The Fair is the biggest Art Fair in Africa and the biggest to focus on work from the continent. We are expecting about 100 International Buyers and 10,000 visitors over the weekend. We have also a Focus on Photography for this year, and have a number of solo photographic shows and exhibitions from the likes of Roger Ballen, David Goldblatt, Nandipha Mntambo, Cyrus Kabiru and Santu Mofokeng.


Roger Ballen, Puppy between feet (1999)
Roger Ballen, Puppy between feet (1999)

What do you try to achieve with each installment of the fair?

Since the first year our intention has been to grow a sustainable Fair in Africa that focuses on contemporary art from Africa. Each year we try and grow the participation from the continent and the diaspora through galleries, cultural programs and Special Projects. A major focus of the FNB Joburg Art Fair is to host a number of Special Projects aimed at giving the visitors a world-class art experience.

How did the Art Cities of the Future talk came together and who is involved?

Phaidon is launching the book at this year's Fair and we felt it would be a good opportunity to partner with them. The speakers involved come from Nigeria and South Africa: Zander Blom, Dineo Bopape, Minnette Vari, Temitayo Ogunbiyi. The moderator is Tracy Murinik.

What's the art world like in Joburg right now? Can you discern a theme or a narrative to the art that's being made?

The Joburg Art scene has been strong for the last five or six years. We have some world-class galleries that participate in major fairs abroad and we have some top international artists who base themselves in the city. But I haven't picked up an obvious theme or narrative. As always there is a lot of strong photographic work coming from young and established artists alike. What has been interesting has been the changing demographic of artists as more young black artists make it into the gallery system providing a very exciting art movement in the city.

What are you looking forward to most at the fair?

Once again it would be the Special Projects. I think that the Samsung Sponsored video installation by Mohau Modisakeng will be a highlight as some of the other solo shows.  Another really important aspect of the Fair is the art community coming together and collaborating on local and international projects for the year.

Find out more about the fair here. For more on the changing nature of Johannesburg, and its place within the emerging new art centres, take a look at Art Cities of the Future. For more on Roger Ballen, please consider our books, and to take advantage of exclusive events, offers and reward points, please join Phaidon Club.