The Basel Art Fair is one of the biggest art fairs in the world and an opportunity like this is not to be missed by any art professional. The Basel Art Fair is not just an art fair but a big networking platform where ideas are exchanged, art is seen and the gospel of contemporary art is interrogated and preached. Projects are muted on platforms like the Basel Art Fair. As the National Gallery of Zimbabwe Curator’ this was an opportunity to see what is happening around the global art market, to network and share with others in the field. The most important Gallerists, Curators, artists and researchers come to Basel hence it is an important platform to acquaint one with global trends. When I received an invitation from the Marina Mottin of the Basel Art Fair I thought of the importance of Zimbabwe’s visibility at this international assembly. Most importantly I met with my mentor Andreas Meirer. He is the one who invited me in 2001, to the Centre Pas Qaurt in Switzerland for a residence which included a trip to Venice and Basel. This reunification was very important for me because working under his mentorship provided me with an opportunity to have a dream for the Zimbabwean Pavilion in Venice which I realized ten years later through the National Gallery of Zimbabwe.
The Basel Art Fair was a great opportunity for me. I had an opportunity to hold meetings with other professionals from Nigeria, South Africa, Kenya, Europe and America for possible collaboration. I was privileged to be part of the Art: Basel Salon where I had an opportunity to converse with other art professionals like Mark Coetzee, Koyo from Raw Material Company Dakar, Turia from 1:54, Simon Njami, and many others from around the world. Being part of this discussion about building art institutions in Africa at the Basel Art Fair afforded me a chance for self-introspection and look at the National Gallery of Zimbabwe as a public art institution and ask the pertinent question: where do we stand? I was then able to take stock at the National Gallery of Zimbabwe programming and its relevance to the global discourse of art. Zimbabwe is a country with a long tradition of art and those that came before us like the first Director of the National Gallery Frank McEwen, provided an opportunity for Zimbabwean artists to take part in a number of international exhibitions. The current Executive Director, Mrs. Doreen Sibanda has the same vision and the National Gallery of Zimbabwe is one of the leading art institutions in Africa today as a result. This is evidenced by the number of international programs we have. Like the 2013 collaboration between the National Gallery of Zimbabwe and the Pigorrini Museum in Rome through the Zimbabwean Embassy in Rome. Ambassador Mary Mubi was very instrumental in the success of not only that exhibition but the Venice Biennale project as well. The current Ambassador Magwenzi is also very helpful in this regard and the National gallery of Zimbabwe is honored to be able to do these international projects.
This visit was good for Zimbabwe and its artists for we need to keep preaching the Gospel of Zimbabwean art and an opportunity of this nature is important as our international presence is important. It was also an opportunity to expand our network as a Gallery and remember the National Gallery of Zimbabwe is an international art institution that needs to expand its network beyond Africa and the Basel Art Fair offers this opportunity.
Zimbabwe’s presence at the 56th Venice Biennale is an important step that as nation we took. The visit to the Basel Art Fair is another important step to lay ground for further international participation and inform the international community about Zimbabwean Art. It is also an opportunity to share with the global art scene the developments in contemporary art in Zimbabwe. As a country we must value these platforms for inform our thinking and also create an opportunity, to be claim our bit in the global art scene. For many years Zimbabwe had been part of the global art scene but we had taken too many steps back and need to bounce back.
After the Basel Art Fair I was able to attend meetings in Germany in preparation for yet another international exhibition on migration that will start in Zimbabwe, move to Uganda and eventually to Germany. This is a collaborative project with Oldenburg University, Makerere University Gallery and Museum in Bremen. This exhibition will provide a platform for East and Southern African artists to interrogate migration issues that are very topical globally today. The exhibition will start in early 2016 and end in September 2016 in Brem.
Link to the conversation video: