The annual FNB Art Joburg chooses to go digital this year

This in light of the lingering Covid-19 global pandemic

By Edward Tsumele

Running major arts events this year has been a challenge for many businesses, particularly in the arts sector, with many such events preferring the virtual way , due to the global pandemic, Covid19, challenges in as far as public safety is concerned.

One such major event, which has chosen to run online this year, joining several other major arts events in South Africa because of this lingering coronavirus threat  to the public is popular art fair FNB Art Joburg. It will take place virtually from November 6 to November 18.

The decision for this fair to run on an online platform follows a similar decision reached by others this year, such as RMB Art Fair, LATITUDEs Art fair and the annual National Arts Festival, which until this year, has always taken place in the Eastern Cape town of Makhanda. 

Though many other arts institutions are now under level 1 of lockdown, which allows for a certain level of social interactions with health protocols applicable, there is still a level of caution when it comes to hosting a large number of people in one place, especially when there is ongoing conversation about the possible threat of a second wave of infections, such as that witnessed in some countries in Europe, some of which are again currently placing stricter restrictions of social interactions that they had lifted after the rate of infection had slowed down after the first wave receded.

Mandla Sibeko the owner of FNB Art Joburg standing in front of the art work of Loyiso Mkize titled Nozamo at last year’s art fair edition before Covid 19 hit.

Interestingly, when it comes to the these recent events that have taken place in South Africa using the digital platforms, they have achieved some levels of success, even though initially there were some doubts as to whether audiences were going to adapt to the new normal where the virtual world is providing a realistic alternative to doing business, including mass attracting events such as festivals and art fairs.

A number of prominent theatres in the country though, including the Market Theatre, Joburg Theatre and State Theatre, among others, have announced some  programmes of shows where audiences will attend physically, promising though to adhere to strict Covid-19 health protocols, and restricting such attendance to the mandatory 50 percent venue capacity.

As to whether audiences will be comfortable enough to attend shows in reasonably viable numbers, is yet to be seen as most of those shows are scheduled on for later this year.

At the moment FNB Art Joburg  online has released an impressive list of top notch galleries, many of them regulars to this event, suggesting that the exhibitors have embraced the new reality of conducting the business of art during times of Covid 19.

Mandla Sikebo the owner of FNB Art Joburg is taking the fair online from November 6 to November 18, 2020 due to Covid 19 safety concerns

”As part of the upcoming exciting online edition, FNB Art Joburg online announces exhibitor details of its upcoming digital show taking place from 6-18 November. Divided into two sections, the main section and Gallery LAB, this year’s line up boasts 33 galleries from 13 countries including Angola, Botswana, Côte d’Ivoire, Germany, Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria, Portugal, South Africa, Uganda, United Kingdom, Zambia, Zimbabwe.

The 2020 edition of Gallery LAB features solo presentations and for the first time in the fair’s history, was open to both proposals from galleries and independent curators working with independent artists. Co-curated by Banele Khoza and Nicole Siegenthaler, the 2020 LAB section exhibits augmented reality installations in addition to the traditional selection of artwork images on online fairs. FNB Art Joburg online fair viewers will be able to experience the LAB A/R galleries on their mobile phones.

The FNB Art Prize will celebrate its 10th edition this year and will be announced later this month with an online Facebook Premiere event for audiences around the world to tune into,” the fair says in a statement.

For information about the exhibitors please go to

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