The Turbine Art Fair (TAF), now in its 5th year, is known as the show where all works sell for R50 000 and under. The fair provides alternative investment opportunities for new kinds of art lovers unable or unwilling to pay the whopping prices slapped on works by the art establishment.

Over 50 galleries and exhibits will be present from July 13 to 17 at Newtown’s Turbine Hall where the resident forum company runs the event as a showpiece for its iconic venue. Restored in 2005, construction on the power station began in 1927 making this year a sort of 90th birthday for this fine example of early 20th-century industrial architecture.

It was the largest and last of three steam-driven power stations in Newtown. Long term Joburg residents will recall a sunny day in 1985 when its massive concrete cooling towers were imploded, clearing the way for the establishment of Newtown as a cultural precinct after its life as an electrical precinct.

For the art fair there is a fortuitous parallel between the function of the original building as a new site of electrical energy for the city then, and the function of the art fair as a site of new creative energy for the city, now.

Glynis Hyslop, TAF director and MD of the forum company, says that the fair differs from other local art fairs, because its informal atmosphere makes it a “great place to hang out.” And while it offers “good food, wine and music, it is also a place to learn about art.”

“It compliments the other fairs,” Hyslop says. “We have younger, emerging artists who would not be showing at the other fairs, and we show many multiples of works on paper by artists who do exhibit on the other fairs.

“It is also a way for younger galleries to get noticed. Many have been accepted at the other fairs after showing at TAF.”

To provide a gateway to the greater art world for emerging artists and galleries, the event does special programming that brings new names to the fore. This year marks the third year of Emerging painters: The Graduate Show, an exhibition curated by acclaimed painter Jessica Webster, highlighting the best of newly graduate painters from universities across the country.

It also marks the 4th year of the exhibition Fresh Produce curated by Rolihlahla Mhlanga and supported by Rand Merchant Bank. The show is the culmination of a six-month mentorship programme leading up to the fair. For emergent connoisseurs, there’s collector Anton Taljaard’s exhibition of works by Jacobus Hendrik Pierneef shown in association with Strauss & Co and Artinsure. Taljaard’s biography informs us that, inspired by his parents who were avid collectors themselves, he accompanied them to collect a work by Pierneef that they had acquired from a prominent Johannesburg gallery. It was then that he promptly bought his first Pierneef linocut, at the tender age of 13.

Taljaard and a host of committed local collectors will be sharing their strategies and secrets on the TAF Artinsure talks curated by art consultant Makgati Molebatsi. The programme also includes two fine documentaries: Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict directed by Lisa Immordino Vreeland in 2015 as well as Herb & Dorothy directed by Megumi Sasaki in 2008. Both show how a passion for collecting takes over the lives of individuals albeit from different sides of the wealth divide.

While the booths of galleries will be showing their finest and most reasonably priced future stars, as well as some deceased ones, there will be two mixed media installations that could open visitors minds up to different possibilities of expression and acquisition.    

Lizamore & Associates of Johannesburg will be showing an aspect of artist Hannelie Coetzee’s installation from her previous show Watermense/Water People and Sulger-Buel Lovell of Cape Town will present their artist Neill Wright.

Coetzee leads what she calls a “site responsive practice.” She sees herself as an “ecological artist that studies the effects of man-made systems on the natural environment.” In the exhibition Watermense she focused on the use, abuse and distribution of water and in preparation walked along the natural streams crisscrossing Johannesburg interacting with individuals and communities she encountered there. She listened to their stories and photographed them and their surroundings. These images have found form through engravings of portraits on discarded doors. The doors will be installed at the art fair this year.

Wright, on the other hand, will be reimagining paintings from his Wilderness series in a three dimensional space, in sculptural form. The installation will apparently form a “psychedelic, swamp type landscape,” according to the artist’s statement.

Art critic Andrew Lamprecht described the works in the original exhibition, from which they are adapted, as “hope in the form of new growth. These forms still hold their seed and are promising to burst forth into a new generation.” Pretty much like the art fair’s brief, in itself.

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