Celebrating 10 Years of Turbine Art Fair

more than a year ago
It's been 10 years since the annual Turbine Art Fair (TAF) launched in Joburg and this popular event has now become a major stand-out on the South African art calendar, appealing to diverse audiences from all backgrounds including artists, art lovers, curators, collectors and other curious Joburgers looking to engage deeper with Joburg's creative scene.

The 10th-anniversary edition of the fair is happening at a new venue in Rosebank from July 21 to 24. As always there's a rich selection of galleries, studios, and artist collectives exhibiting, as well as a fascinating offering of specially curated exhibitions and projects. Buy your tickets here and be part of this year's celebration!

Over the years we've managed to attend every edition of what is always one of our favourite Joburg art events. Here's a look back at the highlights from the past decade of what has become known as TAF.

2013 | Turbine Art Fair's debut edition

The launch of the new Turbine Art Fair fair at the Turbine Hall in Newtown by Glynis Hyslop, managing director of The Forum Company, sought to create a fair that had "something for everyone". From day one the fair placed an emphasis on presenting works for sale to the public at accessible prices, selling small printworks that cost as little as R1,000 up to large paintings and sculptural pieces. The fair was envisaged as an accessible and diverse space that would provide a platform for art enthusiasts to start or grow an art collection and for smaller galleries and studios from across the country to reach new audiences and present works by emerging and young artists.
Originally named for its Newtown location, in the historic Turbine Hall, this was an epic space that had until this time rarely been open to the public as an events venue. In addition to the opportunity to explore this unique space for the first time, for visitors another major highlight of this first edition was an activation led by artist Simon Bannister who walked his life-sized giraffe sculptures over the Nelson Mandela Bridge to the Turbine Hall, where they were on show for the duration of the fair.

2014 | Emerging artists in the spotlight 

Following the astounding success of the debut fair, for its second edition Turbine Art Fair was enlarged, taking over two whole floors of the Turbine Hall building providing more space for galleries, artists and guests to enjoy access to a huge range of work. That year 2014 also saw the introduction of the first Fresh Produce Exhibition (now known as TAF Unearthed) a mentorship programme for young emerging artists that culminated in a specially curated group exhibition at the fair. The fair also launched an award, the TAF & Sylt Emerging Artist Residency Award, won by young installation artist Setlamorago Mashilo, for his artwork Mabu a u tswitswe.

The fair's complementary programme of events then began to grow with artist Robyn Penn leading educational art walkabouts of the 2014 fair designed especially for kids, and timed to coincide with Mandela Day the charity campaign 67 Blankets for Mandela Day hosted an activation at the venue. 

2015 | Portraiture, Works on Paper and a Printing Press

For the third edition of the fair, local printing studio Artist Proof Studios installed their large printing press at the fair, hosting demonstrations to educate visitors about the mechanics behind printing limited edition works on paper. Continuing a focus on works on paper, a medium that is typically more affordable and perfectly suited to first-time art collectors, the fair hosted an exhibition featuring famous works on paper from the Johannesburg Art Gallery (JAG) collection. For many Joburgers this was the first time they had seen some of the most prized jewels of JAG's European art collection such as drawings by the likes of Pablo Picasso, Lucien Freud and Salvador Dali. 

Adding some extra fun to the 2015 fair, performance artist Anthea Moys hosted The Portrait Exchange – where visitors and Anthea would draw each other in 60 seconds without looking down at the page.
Artist Anthea Moys exchanges a portrait with a visitor!

2016 | Goya, concrete and Graduate Painters

Now firmly entrenched on the Joburg art calendar, for the 2016 edition Turbine Art Fair continued to grow and expand the rich variety of special exhibitions on show alongside the several dozens of galleries and studios also taking part. Among 2016's special exhibitions were an exhibition of the works of the PPC Imaginarium Awards. The award encouraged artists and designers to create works using cement-based concrete as a primary base or material. The Graduate Painters exhibition (now known as the TAF Grad Show) also debuted. A curated exhibition of works by final year art students from art schools and universities across South Africa, this exhibition has gone on to become one of the most exciting spaces at the fair to look for new emerging talent.

Again partnering with the Johannesburg Art Gallery (JAG), the fair hosted a special show of etchings from the museum's Francisco Goya collection, that were paired with contemporary etchings inspired by Goya created by Diane Victor. The Turbine Art Fair VIP Preview Party also cemented itself as a major element of the fair, with a full house on preview night for canapes, cocktails, first access to the works on sale and music by DJ Abby Nurock.

2017 | Pierneef and a beaded Casspir

For the 2017 edition Turbine Art Fair brought in one of its biggest ever installations, a massive armoured Casspir vehicle covered in more than a ton of colourful glass beads. The creation of Ralph Ziman and dozens of local bead artists, The Casspir Project has travelled the world, and in July 2017 the vehicle drove straight through the streets of downtown Joburg on the way to its installation space at the Turbine Hall yard where visitors were able to explore the vehicle during the fair. The iconic work sparked debate and discussion about the transformation of relics from South Africa's terrible past and was easily one of the biggest talking points of the 2017 edition of TAF.

Also new for this year was a collaboration with top art auction house Strauss & Co who hosted a superb exhibition of masterpieces by the iconic South African artist JH Pierneef. The team of curators from Strauss & Co were also on hand leading insightful walkabouts of this dazzling exhibition.
The Casspir Project by Ralph Ziman

2018 | Stern, Koloane and Talent Unlocked

At the 2018 edition TAF again joined forces with Strauss & Co auction house who brought together a glorious exhibition dedicated to still life painting by Irma Stern. Drawn from private collections around the country, it was a rare opportunity to see seldom-shown masterpieces such as Stern’s 1947 Dahlias. The exhibition was also paired with new print works and ceramics created by art students and inspired by the specific paintings on display. Another highlight of the special projects exhibitions was a retrospective show of the work of acclaimed artist and co-founder of Bag Factory Artist Studios David Koloane.

In 2018 Rand Merchant Bank became the official sponsor of the fair and the works by finalists from the RMB Talent Unlocked art prize were on show at the fair at Turbine Hall.

2019 | Turbine Art Fair on the move

In 2019 it, unfortunately, became no longer possible for Turbine Art Fair to take place at its namesake venue Turbine Hall and the fair went on the move, taking over what was once the offices of a bank at Fricker Road in Illovo.

At the new venue Strauss & Co's special exhibitions continued with this year's specially curated show – A Meeting of Minds: Louis Khehla Maqhubela and Douglas Portway – pairing together two influential 20th Century South African abstract artists. Holding pride of place as 2019 Featured Artist was Nkhensani Rihlampfu, whose distinctive wood and rope sculptures were installed at the centre of the venue, while documentary film screenings and an exhibition featuring the work of alumni of the Market Photo Workshop made their debut. An extra special treat for those attending this year's VIP Preview Party was an exclusive performance by the contemporary dancer and choreographer Gregory Maqoma of his acclaimed work Exit/Exist.
Gregory Maqoma performed his work Exit/Exist at the VIP Preview party

2020 | The year we went online

2020... need we say more? It was of course the first year of the pandemic, and like everything else in the world, Turbine Art Fair went online. It was a brave and innovative first with a huge offering of online viewing rooms for exhibiting galleries and special exhibitions, as well as a virtual talks programme and even virtual 'walkabouts' of the fair. Crucially as an online fair Turbine Art Fair finally was presented with the opportunity to create an online buying platform, bringing the work of the fair to scores of new audiences and potential buyers across the country. 

For this edition TAF created a Covid-inspired photography project called Stilled Life with the public invited to submit their photographic works capturing life in lockdown. 100 hundred images were selected and went on sale at the online fair, with proceeds from going towards the BASA Artists Relief Fund.
Photography from Turbine Art Fair 2020's Stilled Life project

2021 | The Year of the mask!

One of the first large events to take place after the easing of Covid restrictions, the 2021 edition was delayed from its usual July dates due to the devastating delta wave. Taking place in late September this was a brave and worthwhile initiative that saw the Joburg art community finally gathering together in person again to enjoy an in-person art fair. Numbers were of course more restricted than usual and mask-wearing was still de rigueur, as were vaccine certificates.

As for the art, among this year's exciting new initiatives was TAF Off the Grid, a new special exhibition showcasing the work of established artists who are unrepresented by galleries, and a special show by Stephen Hobbs who, having returned from a brief stint in Ireland, took up a daily live-action residency with with David Krut Projects.

Artworks by Joni Brenner from TAF Off the Grid

2022 | TAF Goes underground...

Turbine Art Fair is back from July 21 to 24, 2022 and with Covid restrictions finally completely lifted, TAF is celebrating with a new venue and bumper special exhibitions programme. Visitors are in for many fresh changes as TAF has branded their fair as going "underground" at a new venue in the Oxford Parks precinct in Rosebank, and by popular demand they have extended the evening hours of the fair too.

Among the many highlights to look forward to at this year's edition of TAF are the return of the VIP Preview party, an innovative large-scale artwork by artist Pat Mautloa that's on sale as separate pieces, an impressive talks and walkabouts programme, the return of the brilliant TAF Off the Grid exhibition, an exciting showcase of emerging artists at the TAF Unearthed and TAF Grad Show exhibitions, plus a new project called TAF Sublime that promises to be a tech-forward area of the fair featuring immersive multimedia art installations.

Tickets for TAF 2022

Tickets general access R150 per day, students R80. VIP First Access July 21 day ticket (includes coffee and cake) R500, VIP Opening Night Party July 21 R900. Available online at


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