Art and the city | FNB Art Joburg announces Open City Programme - Bubblegum Club

Art and the city | FNB Art Joburg announces Open City Programme

“A dynamic long weekend of gallery, arts & culture programming across Joburg”, reads text on the landing page of FNB Art Joburg’s website, describing the fair’s newly launched initiative called Open City. Taking place from October 28 – 31 2021, Open City will be a four-day art-centred weekend taking place across the Rosebank precinct with especially curated pop-up exhibitions and programming.

Speaking about sentiments driving the weekend’s conception and intentions, Founding Director of FNB Art Joburg Mandla Sibeko shares, “We’ve partnered with various curators, galleries and restaurants, to present a weekend of immersive art experiences and gallery hopping for the people of Joburg to once again safely occupy the spaces we enjoy.

Johannesburg is the cultural and economic capital of Africa and with this year’s initiatives, FNB Art Joburg not only wants to reaffirm the city’s position but aims to make a meaningful contribution to the city’s economy.”

Sphephelo Mnguni, Neighbourhood Watch; 2021.

Now, ‘city’ being prefixed by ‘open’ in FNB Art Joburg’s weekend programme name, catapulted my mind into a tizzy of thought — the first, being a signalling towards a ‘closed city’ the art fair weekend exists in relation to. Is it an ‘open’ that is imagined in relation to how the COVID-19 pandemic has forced whole cities and their people to close in on themselves; to fold and retreat within, solitude our lingering companions?

Or is it an ‘open’ that is imagined as existing in relation to the closedness of white cube art institutions and spaces in sprawling urban metropoles such as Joburg — where although the creative and imaginative matter of art extracts from all life — only few are afforded the access through material privilege to engage with and consume it? These old tired white suits and Black diamond butterflies? I also think of a journal article titled “Arts in Cities – Cities in Arts” by Géraldine Molina and Pauline Guinard, particularly the assertion that:

The presence of cities in art and the presence of art in cities are two fields which have often been studied separately, be it by different disciplines (history, geography, sociology, etc.) or by various approaches within a single discipline (cultural geography or urban geography for example).

Nevertheless, the increasing visibility of culture in general, and art in particular in cities since the end of the 20th century tends to challenge this strict separation. Indeed, art is more and more understood as an integral part of the urban fabric in a post-industrial era.

Not only are the spaces and places of art in cities being redefined, but so are its functions and relations to the urban environment. Consequently, one can wonder to what extent art – in its various forms (sculptures, murals, performances, etc.) – is urbanised in that process and the degrees to which cities are subsequently aestheticised or artialized” (Roger, 1997).

Nonzuzo Gxekwa, Bhut-Madlisa; 2017.

Open City’s pop up exhibitions include Everything was beautiful and nothing hurt, a group exhibition exploring Black portraiture in the practice of painters from southern and west Africa, co-curated by Anelisa Mangcu of Under The Aegis and Jana Terblanche of African Artist Foundation (AAF).

Taking place at The Zone @ Rosebank will be of blood, sweat and data, co-curated by Studio Nxumalo and Through the Lens Collective — their collaborative exhibition of documentary photography engages the city of Johannesburg, its people and dynamic social structure through the mode of portraiture.

I’m interested to see what possible conversations and interrogations about arts in cities, cities in arts, and their future(s) could come out of FNB Art Joburg’s Open City Programme. I’m interested to see how the ‘opening up of the city’ for art impacts who will be moving through, and in these space(s) of art consumption and engagement — whether the institutions who also form part of its fold, will call into question their own roles in the art ecologies of our cities, or if it will just end up mirroring more closed white cubes? 

Adegboyega Adesina, By the botanical garden; 2021.

Lebohang Motaung, Expressive Roots; 2020.

This year’s fair boasts 37 exhibitors from 14 countries, 2021 FNB Art Joburg exhibitor list (hosted on

Afriart Gallery Kampala, Uganda

Arte de Gema Maputo, Mozambique

Artist Proof Studio Johannesburg, South Africa

Barnard Gallery Cape Town, South Africa

BKhz Johannesburg, South Africa

blank projects Cape Town, South Africa

Bode Projects Berlin, Germany

CHURCH Cape Town, South Africa

EBONY/CURATED Cape Town, South Africa

Eclectica Contemporary Gallery Cape Town, South Africa

ELA Espaço Luanda Arte Luanda, Angola

Everard Read London, Johannesburg, Cape Town, Franschhoek

First Floor Gallery Harare Harare, Victoria Falls

Gallery MOMO Johannesburg, South Africa

Goodman Gallery Johannesburg, Cape Town, London

Guns & Rain Johannesburg, South Africa

hFACTOR/16BY16 Lagos, Nigeria Lisbon, Portugal

Johannesburg Art Gallery Johannesburg, South Africa

Kalashnikovv Johannesburg, South Africa

LouiSimone Guirandou Gallery Abidjan, Ivory Coast

Modzi Arts Gallery Lusaka, Zambia

MOVART Lisbon, Luanda

No Parking Lagos Lagos, Nigeria

October Gallery London, United Kingdom

Ora Loapi Gaborone, Botswana

Red Door Gallery Lagos, Nigeria

Rele Gallery Lagos, Los Angeles

Revolving Art Incubator Lagos, Nigeria

This is Not a White Cube Gallery Luanda, Lisbon

Sakhile&Me Frankfurt, Germany

SMAC Gallery Cape Town, Johannesburg, Stellenbosch

Stevenson Cape Town, Johannesburg, Amsterdam

The Plot Cape Town, South Africa

WHATIFTHEWORLD Cape Town, South Africa

WORLDART Cape Town, South Africa

Yebo Art Gallery Ezulwini, eSwatini

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