A quick introduction to Cape Town as a city of art.
Cape Town has cemented its place as a worthy participant in the international art scene, with a range of renowned art fairs, monthly events, public art and street art that rivals any of the world’s larger cities for innovation and inspiration.
At the same time, innovative artists, collectors and property developers are ensuring Cape Town’s position as a top global art destination.
In Cape Town art doesn’t just happen in galleries, but out on the streets too, where it has become part of the fabric of a city where officials use art to bring people together. Art critic Ivor Powell says there is “a dynamism, commitment and identity in the arts such as we have not seen since the dawn of the South African democracy (in 1994)”.
Ashraf Jamal, cultural analyst and author of Art South Africa, references an 1899 painting by British artist James Ford entitled Holiday time in Cape Town in the Twentieth Century, to sum up the art scene in Cape Town: “At the glossy foot of Table Mountain we see a crazy mix of European architecture from Gothic to Neoclassical to the weird Venturi postmodern spin-offs we would become accustomed to, in which anything and everything came together to create a frenzied tentacular aesthetic. That’s Cape Town! A mix, a mashup, a reverb. Part colonial, part now, caught in a time warp that allows for nostalgia, dreams – even an art revolution.”
Once a year Cape Town’s streets are taken over by artists and performers, who pop up on corners across the city centre to make art accessible to all.
Cape Town’s art scene is not just about high-end art galleries – the urban street vibe is just as alluring.
“Having public art on the street turns the street into as much of a tourist attraction as the conventional spots,” says Cape Town-based urban designer and architect Kirsten Wilkins.
A prime example of this is the annual celebration of local artistic talent known as Infecting the City, which aims to bring socially engaged performance and visual art to the streets.
Taking place around February or March each year, the festival hosts a varied range of site-specific art, interventions and performance in the central part of the city.
Presented by the Africa Centre, a non-profit organisation that creates opportunities to explore contemporary African artistic practice as a tool for social change, a new theme is presented each year for local artists to respond to.
Using Cape Town city centre corners as staging grounds, city squares as bandstands and forgotten spaces in the heart of the city as theatres, as well as concert halls and galleries, many of the works are innovative amalgamations of multiple artistic genres that speak to the melting pot that is Cape Town. Besides the designated routes, much of the festival’s content must simply be stumbled upon.
Here’s a taste of what to expect: