Latitudes Online: Celebrating Art From Africa and the Diaspora

WORDS Palesa Kgasane IMAGES courtesy of Latitudes Online

Latitudes Online is a marketplace consisting of a plethora of independent artists, curators, studios, galleries and non-profit organisations, specialising in the accessibility of art from Africa and the diaspora.

Whether one hopes to discover emerging artists like Zana Masombuka or purchase seasoned artists such as William Kentridge, from big galleries such as SMITH to organizations like ArtThrob, Latitude Art Fair’s online space offers a myriad of choices.

Latitudes Art Fair was launched in Johannesburg in September 2019, and due to the rearrangement of this year’s live exhibitions, the art fair moved online full-time and will run all year until September 2021, when it hopes to resume live exhibitions. “The overwhelmingly positive response we received to our physical fair that launched in September last year confirmed an appetite for a new zone of exchange; one which is inclusive, innovative and more diverse,” said Lucy MacGarry, who together with Roberta Coci, co-directs Latitudes Online.

The website offers access and insight: weekly featured artists from 35 galleries and 6 NPOs, consisting of 350 artists from 120 countries, curated by a diverse group of local and international curators, as well as a guide for new art buyers – it’s not just an online gallery but a shared space for discovery.

“Of the many ways we plan to enliven the Latitudes experience is to show more experimental, film, video and digital work on the platform,” explains Lucy. “By promoting such work alongside traditional painting and sculpture, we aim to change perceptions around its value.”  In many ways, this year has become the catalyst for making art more accessible to art lovers and broken down the walls that prescribe certain attitudes regarding whom art is made for, which platforms like Latitude seek to do.

In the context of Africa, where art is often underrepresented and under-supported and the art world is filled with its own hierarchical practices, this online space creates an enormous opportunity for African artists to exhibit and gain worldwide exposure, something that is not only important and impactful in terms of social change in the creative world, but necessary as we move towards a world that encourages inclusivity.

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