Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Cape Town Art Week: Group Mentality

On the floor are stacked layers of tiles and bones, next to a porcelain dog that looks like it is guarding the installation. It’s one of many Kemang Wa Lehuleres that fill the first room of the Stevenson gallery. It’s like a neat cross-section of a disaster site - a clinical excavation.  The title, I can’t laugh any more, when I can’t laugh I can’t… (2012) speaks of this incongruent mix of trauma and kitsch, this oscillation between digging into a past horror, while acknowledging the act of digging is clichéd.

The gallery is surprisingly empty, given it’s the opening night, but then there are four other openings or events in the Woodstock area – so the art-going-loving-buying-crowd is spread thinly between Blank, the new experimental space dubbed “Evil Son”, the Goodman and Whatiftheworld.

My companion, Malibongwe Tyilo, aka Skattie, the infamous fashion blogger of Skattie What are You Wearing, has slim pickings; fashionable or stylish gallerinas are his niche market and there are only a few old ladies knocking about the gallery. He snaps one of them, wearing a pair of silver trainers, and me in one of my statement necklaces. It’s one of five that I have brought to Cape Town as part of my Art Week Cape Town survival kit, which also includes a box of Panados (to counter headaches brought on by cheap wine at openings), the handy Artweek map, and a smartphone for tweeting and photographing so I can keep track of the work I like.

There is a lot to see and process, with two or three openings a night over the space of a week. While the Joburg art scene has wound down by mid-November – there is not an opening until next year – it’s high art season in Cape Town. December and January are the most lucrative months for galleries, what with the city brimming with affluent tourists and visitors.

Few are, however, risking it with a solo show; except for the Goodman, which was due to open with a new William Kentridge exhibition wryly titled No, it is. But then it’s Kentridge, one of the most bankable local artists. Largely, it’s only public institutions that are showing solo exhibitions; the AVA is showing La Sape, a collection of painted portraits by Zambian artist Zemba Luzamba and, at the Iziko SA National Art Gallery, Mikhael Subotzky’s Retinal Shift and Jared Thorne’s exhibition, Black Folk, are being exhibited.