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Today we celebrate the world's largest environmental movement, Earth Day. This takes on unique significance as the coronavirus pandemic throws our dysfunctional relationship with nature into stark relief. The art industry has for years grappled with the carbon cost of travel and shipping for short-term events such as art fairs. To explore new and innovative ways of approaching fairs that have come to play such a critical role in the world of contemporary art, LAQ chats to LATITUDES Co-Director, Roberta Coci.


As the director of an art fair amidst a world that is rethinking forms of collector engagement and artist promotion, how do art fairs move forward in this moment and once restrictions of large-scale events have been lifted and life presumably returns to ‘normal’?

Roberta Coci:

While there is so much uncertainty in the world right now, one thing is certain. We all need to rethink the way we live our lives and run our businesses.

Usually, the future arrives gently, but we have been thrown headfirst into a world of change. There has been a shift towards local markets, companies are being forced online, people are suddenly acutely aware of the environmental impact of their actions, and we are seeing an unprecedented ethos of collaboration. While I am in no way detracting from the human and social devastation the world is experiencing, I believe these are areas of positive change that can come of this pandemic.

At LATITUDES we have made a concerted effort to affect change in a meaningful and sustainable manner. As a smaller business, we are fortunate to be able to implement structural changes swiftly, and as such, within a week of lockdown, we introduced our new platform, LATITUDES Online. This free online marketplace will profile all role players within the African art ecosystem, from artists and galleries to curators and non-profit organisations. It aims not only to bolster the creative industry, but also to offer a travel-free, carbon-neutral art viewing experience, providing audiences with virtual access to works from Africa and the diaspora, throughout the year.

The idea was so positively embraced, that we wanted to extend it beyond the realm of the art world. I have always been passionate about the African design scene, and feel that the HmC Fair is the ultimate showcase of creative talent across the continent. Rather than create a competitive platform, in the spirit of collaboration, we approached the Fair with the idea of aligning our brands. The fit felt so natural, that not only are we creating a sister site, HmC Online, for local design and artisanal goods, but we will also be combining our physical Fairs, on the rooftop of Sandton City, Johannesburg.

By working together and sharing our resources, we will be able to reach a larger audience and benefit the creative industry in a more meaningful way. Equally importantly, by combining the events, we will radically reduce our carbon footprint. As this is an area we are passionate about, we will be working with the Event Greening Forum, who will guide us on creating as eco-friendly an event as possible and of course, we will do our best to source only local suppliers and manufacturers.

The world has changed in a few short weeks, and our businesses are demanding immediate action. I feel extremely grateful to be part of a dynamic, agile team that is able to take a terrifying and potentially devastating situation, and use it as a catapult for positive change.Roberta Coci has over a decade's experience working in the cultural space in South Africa. She started her career in editorial, writing for premium publications such as National Geographic, House and Leisure and Sunday Times. After this, Coci spent several years curating and producing large-scale events such as the Handmade Contemporary Fair and the Winter Sculpture Fair, before starting her own events and communications company, La Mano. In 2019 she proudly co-founded LATITUDES Art Fair along with Lucy MacGarry, Makgati Molebatsi, Nokwazi Zimu and Anthea Buys.

Further Reading In Articles

African Artist Directory

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