Statement from FNB JoburgArtFair Director, Mandla Sibeko

It is with awe and pride that we enter our second decade as the FNB JoburgArtFair. To be given an opportunity to showcase the rise of African contemporary art to an international audience has been an honour and each year we can feel the critical
mass grow.

Throughout the past decade, the FNB JoburgArtFair has remained a South African product well versed in the specifics of the present moment on the African continent. Creating a mirror for African contemporary art to the world is a critical part of telling African stories to a larger audience – and in growing the critical mass well beyond our own borders as well as creating a robust annual platform that brings audience, artist and gallery together – over one weekend – we’re creating much needed opportunities for the art economy to thrive.   

By virtue of our positioning as the largest collection of African contemporary art under one roof, the FNB JoburgArtFair has continued to fulfill a function beyond that of traditional art fairs. Extending far beyond its role of connecting audiences to a host of visual art options, the Fair has a mandate to bring collectors, curators and thought leaders together to discuss and debate around African contemporary art, as well as network to set up future projects and collaborations. Over one weekend, sales clocked in at a substantial R43 million in 2016 and R46 million in 2017. In this way, the Fair has grown both economic and creative possibilities for African contemporary visual art every  year. 

We see this as a vital part of our drive: to continually create opportunities for growth, market access and discussion around contemporary African art, here in Johannesburg. We believe that it is important for this discussion and these presentations to take place in Johannesburg, where a diverse, local, transcontinental and international audience can experience African contemporary art.

Moreover, the Fair depends on the mobilisation of an entire economy of organisations. The Fair depends, in many ways, on the support and enthusiasm of galleries that showcase African contemporary art. It is their efforts that ultimately sustain the market and continually produce the content that the Fair curates into a weekend of visual arts celebration. Then, of course, it’s the artists that bring their work into the FNB JoburgArtFair space, offering our visitors more engagement with African contemporary visual art.

And none of this would be possible without the support of our key partners: First National Bank has been our partner in this venture for the past 11 years and together we have crafted projects, such as the FNB Art Prize, that has enabled artists to further their careers. We have also enjoyed a long and robust partnership centered around mentorship with the Gauteng Provincial Government, offering emerging artists platform to exhibit. In 2017, we embarked on a partnership with Cartier, and this year we welcome them back as key partner. Lastly, following the much admired exhibit of Esther Mahlangu BMW design and the huge response they received at last year’s Fair, BMW joins the FNB JoburgArtFair as a partnering sponsor.