Only the best of the best qualifies for FNB Art Joburg, says new owner

This FNB JoburgArtFair has a new name and a new owner, Mandla Sibeko. He tells us how else the 2019 fair will differ from those held in previous years

FNB Art Joburg’s owner Mandla Sibeko
Image: Supplied

Mandla Sibeko was always a big part of the FNB JoburgArtFair – he was its director from 2015 until 2018. Now he owns the newly renamed FNB Art Joburg after officially acquiring it from previous owners, Artlogic, and his first big, rebooted show launches this Thursday night.

When I meet him for a coffee at his offices at Mesh, the swanky members-only co-sharing space at the Trumpet Building in Rosebank, I’m distracted by all the great art on their walls.

Sibeko admits that being entrenched in the art world has its distractions, like falling for unaffordable pieces of art – the work of Ethiopian artist Aïda Muluneh, for example.

Aïda Muluneh’s ‘Fragments’, 2016.
Image: Supplied

“I come from a background that was not centred around art, so collecting is new to me,” Sibeko says, adding that he’s loving photography in particular at the moment.

“I was drawn into this space when I attended the first JoburgArtFair,” he says.

“I had been travelling around the world quite a lot at the time and was wondering why a big city like Joburg, that’s drenched in culture, didn’t have anything like the museums and fairs I’d seen around the world.

“When I discovered the JoburgArtFair I felt passionate about it and wanted to be a part of it.”

Sibeko cut his teeth in marketing when he was integral to the branding of 2010 Fifa Soccer World Cup, where he says he learned the important lesson that there is great unity in diversity in this country and that it can be harnessed to great effect by bringing people together in various forums.

Sibeko says that the JoburgArtFair was pioneering, being the first big art fair in Africa.

“When it started, there were 50 art fairs around the world,” he says. “Now there are something like 250 fairs in the world.

“After last year’s fair we decided that we needed to change the model and move away from a fair that was just focused on filling up space.

“I wanted to make it smaller and more focused, with a real understanding of what the Joburg art market wants. I want this fair to be a platform for the best of the best in the art world now.”

The fair will also have a Gallery Lab section, to focus on new talent and MAX, which features large-scale installations presented by the participating galleries.

Galleries exhibiting are also now by invitation only, reiterates Sibeko.

“The world is talking about African art,” he says. “There must be a destination where you can go to one place and find the most important pieces and the artists represented by the best galleries.”

• FNB ART JOBURG will take place from September 13-15 at the Sandton Convention Centre. Visit artjoburg.com

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