Archive: Issue No. 30, February 2000

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Berni Searle

This piece by Berni Searle, one of the chosen artists, was seen on "Staking Claims" last year.

Selections announced for Dakar Biennale

According to a press release just received from the South African National Gallery, five South African artists will be represented on this year's Biennale in Dakar, Senegal, which opens on May 5. With the unfortunate demise of the Johannesburg Biennale, Dakar and Cairo offer the only large shows of contemporary art on the continent; Dakar focuses exclusively on Africa. DAK'ART is run on the participation of individual artists, not countries as is the case, for example, with the Venice Biennale.

Marilyn Martin, Director of the South African National Gallery, has just returned from serving on the International Selection Committee for the Dakar Biennale of Contemporary African Art (DAK'ART 2000) and reports that the sixteen-member� committee met from 24 to 29 January,� electing as President David Elliot, Director of the Moderna Museet in Stockholm. DAK'ART 2000 comprises three sections: The International Exhibition of African Art, for which any artist living on the continent or elsewhere, but retains nationality, may enter; The International Salon of Design and Creative Textiles; Individual Exhibitions by five African artists and two who are not resident on the continent. The latter exhibition is curated by curators appointed by the Biennale Secretariat.

Out of more than 300 entries received from 32 countries, the International Selection Committee chose 21 artists. The guiding principle was to create an exhibition that will put DAK'ART 2000 on a par with the great biennials elsewhere. DAK'ART 2000 will inform the world of new beginnings and changes in Africa, the way we look at art and contemporary attitudes to media and to society. The selection reflects what is happening internationally, with a predominance of installations and video works. The emphasis for this Biennale will be on younger artists and on work which will be seen for the first time.

South Africa is well represented. Of the 21 artists selected from 10 countries, four are from South Africa - Andries Botha, Zwelethu Mthethwa, Tracey Rose and Berni Searle. The curator for southern Africa, Hans Bogartze, chose Kay Hassan, winner of the Daimler/Chrysler Prize last year, for an individual exhibition.

pm inc.

Download a quicktime clip from friday night's event (3.2MB)

pm inc. wraps
By Sue Williamson

This weekend marked a sad moment - the break-up of pm inc, some of whose members are leaving town. The group has been working on public interventions since March 1999, including billboards, murals, shop window theatre and interactive performances at special events like the One City Many Cultures Festival, 'Softserve', or the opening of exhibitions like 'Artery'. "Our main motivation is to work with the material of the everyday - like clothing/labour/commerce - with a view to subverting or playing into the familiar. As a name, pm inc. echoes the corporate identity of a business or company. As such we 'package' art making as a public 'campaign' which uses, often with irony, the promotional language of advertising", read their concept statement. "The concept of pm inc. developed in response to the many contradictions which constitute the city of Cape Town as a commercial capital, tourist attraction and as a third world city divided along the lines of class, labour, race and culture. Our interest lies in exploring the impact of media, economics and consumerism on identity and value systems. Focussing on issues that condition our daily lives in the city, like trade, entertainment or crime, we work with 'public' sites and mediums, like shop-windows and fashion. Platforms for our productions include installations and performances in shop-windows or streets and diverse media like the Internet, radio and video, clothes, billboards, fliers, posters and graffiti in the city centre".

Of course, pm inc. could not bid farewell to Cape Town without a final performance, and in an empty furniture shop in Long Street, the group set up stalls, showing videos of past interventions on monitors set in white cardboard cabinets, the items used for that performance set out for sale, shrinkwrapped. Raffles with beautiful tickets allowed one to win such prizes as the rabbit's golden head mask from a previous performance, or a year's supply of toilet paper. Downstairs, a charming and professionally edited movie introduced viewers to each of the members of the group - Candice Borzechowski, Emma Coleman, Dorothee Kreutzfeldt, Heath Nash, Haidee Nel, Woody Oliphant, Colin Payne, Louise Potgieter, Rebecca Townsend and Annabelle Wienand. - and showed footage of the group's activities.

But somehow, the evening did not have quite the same pizzazz as usual. Strangers stood around not quite sure how to participate - notices helping out seemed to be missing. A screechy sound track from Arold Erasmus set a clunky and determindedly upbeat tone, but a note of sadness underlay the riffs on the language of bargain basement offers. Saying goodbye is not always easy. Come back, pm inc., we miss you already!

Lisa Brice

Lisa Brice
Working drawings for future installation at the Goodman Gallery

Radhika Vaidyanathan

Radhika Vaidyanathan
Installation at the Greatmore

Greatmore Studios launch
By Zayd Minty

The Greatmore Studios, a new artists' studio complex, was officially opened on Tuesday 25 January with an exhibition of artists currently in residence at the venue - Bernie Searle, Ishmael Thyssen, Sophie Peters, Garth Erasmus, Gary Frier, Billy Mandindi, Lisa Brice, Tyrrel Thaysen, Mark O'Donovan, Johannes Phokela, and Radhika Vaidyanathan. Based in a set of semi detached cottages, 47-49 Greatmore Street, Woodstock, a residential working class area of Cape Town, the studios offer cheap studio space in a vibrant environment.

The venue is part of a set of initiatives sponsored by philanthropist Robert Loader, whose continuing interest and support of artists is reflected in two earlier projects : the Gasworks in London and the Bag Factory in Johannesburg. Besides offering ongoing studio space to Cape artists, the venue also hosts rotating residences. Currently working there are Phokela, a South African now based in the UK, and Vaidyanathan from India. Brice, who has been doing the rounds with overseas projects and recently had a residency at Gasworks, is also based for a period at the venue before heading off to Trinidad, while Searle, a rapidly rising star in the contemporary arts scene, is presently at the Gasworks for a short residency. A vital initiative on the Cape Town cultural landscape, the venue promises to be a important nurturing space for a number of emerging and established artists and with continuing residencies, promises to inject new energy into Cape Town's rapidly blossoming arts scene.

Tracey Rose

Tracey Rose

Tracey Rose at Pace

Johannesburg artist Tracey Rose is part of the current international artist-in-residence programme at ArtPace, a foundation for contemporary art in San Antonio, Texas. Rose was selected for participation by a panel that includes Dan Cameron, Senior Curator, New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York; Kellie Jones, an independent curator; and Hans-Ulrich Obrist, Curator, Musee d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris. Other artists taking part in this year's programme include Maurizzio Cattelan and Jason Rhoades. Rose uses a variety of media in her work, exploring issues of racial and cultural identity. Her residency, which started in January, ends in mid-March, and will culminate in an exhibition which opens March 10.

Tito Zungu

Tito Zungu

Tito Zungu (1939-2000)

By Virginia MacKenny

Tito Zungu was one of the quiet lights of the KwaZulu Natal art scene. A light that manifest itself in jewel-like embellishments of abstracted buildings, aeroplanes, radios and ships. A man of deep religious conviction who always prepared himself before he began his work by communing with 'higher Powers', Zungu had a joyous spirituality that he openly shared with others. In his work this communicated itself not so much through his subject matter, but rather through his lovingly worked surfaces. Dense markings and stipplings of ballpoint and felt pen indicate an intimate attention that speaks of the value of every detail in God's world much as the 15th century Flemish artists the Van Eyck brothers or the Indian miniaturists might have done.

A subsistence farmer living in the rural area of Mapumolo for most of his life he supported himself working as a cook when he lived in the city. His early works, produced during the late 50s and early 60s, made on the backs of envelopes for himself and the community of migrant labourers around him, initially sold for a penny. Now collectors items, likely to rise even more sharply in value since his death, such works grace the portfolios of many major museums. One of the first of these to collect his work in the early 70s was the Durban Art Gallery. Whilst his first solo show was in Johannesburg at the Wits University Gallery* in 1982 and he was included in a number of international shows (Art from South Africa, MOMA Oxford (1990), the XLV Venice Bienniale (1993) and the Southern Cross, Stedelijk, Amsterdam (1993)) it was in Durban in 1997 that he was accorded a retrospective. Complete with full-colour catalogue this exhibition he dedicated to the late Jo Thorpe of the African Art Centre whom he valued as a close friend and who had first brought his work to the attention of the art world. Included in this show were coloured lithographs on a much larger scale than the envelopes. Produced with the aid of Greg Hayes' Stepping Stone Press, these afforded Zungu the opportunity to sell more widely and establish himself in an economically viable position.

Tito's work forms a bridge between people and cultures - the works themselves are often reminiscent of traditional African design found in textiles, basket work, beadwork and Zulu earplugs yet they depict mainly Western, man-made technology. Colin Richards, in his essay for the retrospective catalogue, points out that Tito's work seems to be 'founded in the impulse to communicate'. Not only is it done on the very container/carrier of communication between people (envelopes and letters) it also depicts modes of transport (ships and aeroplanes) and means of broadcast (radios) which signal transmission of news and ideas and which promise interchange between people.

Tito Zungu in his own life seemed to generate such interchanges. He died on the 11th January in the presence of his friends Andries Botha and Gillian King shortly after they had collected him from hospital. He was buried by his community on the 15th, much mourned by all who knew him or his work.

Martha Rosler

Martha Rosler
Semotics of the Kitchen, 1975
Still from black and white videotape

Maria Fernanda Cardoso

Maria Fernanda Cardoso Cementerio - Vertical Garden, 1992
Artificial flowers and pencil on wall
353 x 3,413.8cm

Godfried Donkor

Godfried Donkor Bill Richmond, The Black Terror, 1999
Oil and acrylic on canvas

Museum of Modern Art

The Museum of Modern Art, New York

New York New York - a curator's reportback
By Emma Bedford

No-one could be more surprised than I was to find myself in New York in the week before Christmas, ostensibly to discuss exciting future projects that will showcase South African visual arts internationally. In meetings, exchanging ideas about strategies, choices and approaches, I couldn't help reflecting on some of the recent shows of South African art abroad in order to assess how we might build on their successes while avoiding their pitfalls. My thoughts obviously turned to 'Liberated Voices', at the Museum for African Art. What to make of these national shows? While there were highlights to enjoy and an extensive education programme to delve into, the exhibition, in my opinion, suffered from a lack of curatorial rigour. But on the upside, SA art gets exposure and some artists get to travel. Who can quibble with that?

In comparison, the exhibition of Brazilian artist, Cildo Meireles at the New Museum of Contemporary Art next door was easily my favourite. Yes, comparisons are odious and one can't really compare shows curated on a different scale with varying resources but in terms of reward this scored high points in my book. Organised by Dan Cameron and Gerardo Mosquera, it is described as "the latest in the New Museum's continuing series of exhibitions of pioneer artists working outside the United States". Senior Curator, Dan Cameron, is one of a group of curators with whom I've been liaising on a major show of William Kentridge's work which we should see at the SANG one of these years, provided we can raise the funds. If the Meireles show is anything to go by, we're in for a treat.

Rigorously conceived, the show presented a range of Meireles's works that refer both to the mechanics of perception and to events subsequent to the imposition of military dictatorship in Brazil during the 1960s. One of these, undertaken in response to the murder of a journalist, begins with the installation of a seemingly ordinary interior rendered entirely in red and leads on to what might be the crime scene, taking the visitor from apparent normalcy into the terror of violence under an oppressive regime. The documentary video on the mezzanine provided a useful context within which to view and understand the artist's work and comprehensive wall texts offer insights into individual works. The museum building with its open plan is a beautiful space in which one wants to linger and the bookshop stocks a wide selection of wonderful art books. Mmmm ... altogether a very pleasing museum experience. (On view until March 15) And if a little shopping's what you're after, the Armani Exchange across the road offers off-the-peg designer desirables at affordable prices. Yeah, in dollars maybe but in my rueful rands - hardly.

New York is, like most other places, awash with large-scale millennial survey shows. Of these, 'The American Century Part II 1950 - 2000' at the Whitney takes the cake. Yum yum. (On view until February 13) Exploring how American artists have portrayed the changing identity of the USA over the last century, this second part was particularly fascinating. From Willem de Kooning via Lorna Simpson to Matthew Barney, four floors of stunning art works and parallel cultural sites led one through the decades in a comprehensive but manageable way.

By comparison MOMA's 'Modern Starts: People, Places and Things' is too big and too encyclopedic to be absorbed in one visit. Nevertheless I found plenty to interest me in the short time I had at my disposal. The thrill of coming upon that famous fa�ade again was trebled at seeing it enhanced by Shirin Neshat's banner showing a woman's face inscribed with Islamic script. Not only does it acknowledge Neshat, who garnered one of the top awards at the Venice Biennale last year, but it sensitises one to the absence of Muslim imagery and culture in America other than in the most brutal media stereotypes. I was pleased and affirmed to discover right at the start of the show, Martha Rosler's Semiotics of the Kitchen, a work I had featured in my Johannesburg Biennale exhibition in 1995. (Rosler's solo survey show will be on view at the New Museum of Contemporary Art from June 13 - October 18, 2000.) Doris Salcedo's cemented cupboard and Maria Fernanda Cardoso's vertical garden of white flowers were eloquent elegies for punctured dreams both within the political and domestic spheres of their native Latin America and elsewhere. Bill Viola's Hatsu Yume (First Dream) using light as a medium is the most exquisitely beautiful video I have ever seen. (Closes on March 14)

The Dia Centre for the Arts had several shows on its four floors including Stan Douglas and Douglas Gordon's Double Vision video installation and Robert Irwin's very beautiful neon-articulated rooms. Dan Graham's Rooftop Urban Park Project allowed a breathless 360 degree view of the New York night sky which was made even more magical by the Christmas lights.

There is much to see in the surrounding Chelsea area. The Glen Ligon and Kara Walker show at Brent Sikkema is of particular interest, dealing as they do with stereotypes of race and sex. Andreas Gursky's gargantuan photos at Matthew Marks Gallery are astonishing. Of course, I couldn't help being lured into the new Comme de Garcon shop with its seductive hi-tech tunnel leading into that emporium of covetable clothing. But my funny money was even less likely to help me acquire anything here.

The 57th Street area is also well worth a visit. 'Picture This: New Representational Painting' at Associated American Artists included the work of Ghanaian-born Godfried Donkor who explores historical imagery of slaves counterpoised against the British aristocracy of the period.

'SENSATION: Young British Artists from the Saatchi Collection' is still causing a sensation at the Brooklyn Museum. After attempts by New York's mayor to close it down on the ground's that Chris Ofili's black Madonna (with the much-maligned elephant dung) was sacriligeous, the work was defaced by an offended catholic who hurled white paint at it. Fortunately, swift action by the conservators saw the work restored in no time.

I had several meetings including one with John Peffer who, with Lauri Firstenberg, is curating 'Translation/Seduction/Displacement: photographic and postconceptual art by artists from Southern Africa' scheduled for White Box on W26th Street in February. Meetings with the editors of NKA: Journal of Contemporary Art were very successful. And of course there was a party or two. Coco Fusco through a fabulous party at her home where amongst the crowd of glitterati including Tracy Moffatt, were Berni Searle, Moshekwa Langa, Tumelo Mosaka and Lisa Brice. Great to see South African artists and curators making it abroad. A formal dinner at Gary van Wyk's Axis Gallery provided the occasion for meeting several interesting people including Anthony Korner, publisher of Artforum. And it was good to see the London- based Sunil Gupta at his opening in Chelsea. My grateful thanks go to the funders who made it possible for me to travel.

Emma Bedford
South African National Gallery

Malcolm Payne

Malcolm Payne
Gorilla, 1985
Polystyrene, marine Plywood, canvas, paint, fabric
300cm high
One of the artworks from Resistance Art in South Africa(1989)

William Kentridge

William Kentridge
Sobrety, obesity and growing old, 1991
Scene from the video

Russell Scott

Russell Scott
O.N.C.O. ,1991

Neville Hoad

Neville Hoad
The Limitations of Social Realism, 1991

South African Art in the Nineties: Part I, II, III, IV, V, VI & VII
By Sue Williamson

Part I:
'South Africans Isolated No Longer' ran the headline of Holland Cotter's September 1999 review in the New York Times of the 'Liberated Voices' show, and the phrase could serve as the international summing up of the position of South African art at the end of the nineties. Not yet seen as a major player, not getting the kind of coverage in art magazines that other developing art markets like the Chinese or Latin American countries receive, not understood in any kind of depth, but still, 'isolated no longer.'

So quickly does time pass, that it is almost a surprise to realise that on the first day of the nineties, January 1, although noises were being made about the possible release of Nelson Mandela, few knew whether this would really happen, or what might result if it did. Instant assassination or re-arrest of the people's hero were two possibilities seriously discussed. Certainly the unbanning of the ANC was not anticipated. The art scene was still firmly in thrall to the cultural boycott, which restricted South African artists from showing overseas, and overseas artists from showing here. The big national showcase for South African art was still the Cape Town Triennial. Individual achievement was being recognised by the Standard Bank Young Artist Award, given to an artist under the age of 40, which gave the winner a show in the Monument Theatre at the Grahamstown Festival, accompanied by a catalogue. The 1989 Young Artist was Mmakgoba Helen Sebidi, still referred to at that time by her last two names only, and the 1990 joint winners were Fee Halsted Berning and Bonnie Ntshalintshali. The other large prize was more regional - the Vita Art Award was given for the best exhibition in Johannesburg in any one year - in 1991, Karel Nel was the Vita Award Winner. My book. Resistance Art in South Africa, (David Philip Publishers) had been launched at the end of 1989, grouping contemporary artists alongside the street artists and T-shirt designers in an attempt to give form to a previously undocumented aspect of the country's art scene.

The following year, 1991, was to see the last of the Cape Town Triennials. Initiatives by artists' groups like the Visual Arts Group in Cape Town and the Artists Alliance in Johannesburg to democratise the patriarchal patronage systems which dominated the national scene led to heavy criticisms of the way the sponsors, the Rembrandt Van Rijn Art Foundation, attempted to control the Triennial. The exhibition poster issued by the Foundation's publicity department featured not an artwork but a huge blowup of the company logo. Reportbacks from all the regional judging panels raised a number of other contentious issues, like the unfairness of a system which privileged certain art-educated artists above those not so privileged. It was suggested that a good portion of the prize money should be channelled into a workshop component. Stung by the criticisms and by clashes with the South African National Gallery administration under the directorship of Marilyn Martin, Rembrandt abruptly announced that there would be no further sponsorship.

The Triennial catalogue, unlike today's full colour publications, was in black and white. Colour was reserved for the three winning entries: the Rembrandt gold medal went to William Kentridge, for his video, Sobriety, obestity and getting old. Sandra Kriel won a merit award for her embroidered panels, Why are you afraid? on the subject of the role of women in the struggle, Willie Bester, who had had his first one-person exhibition the previous year, won the second for his collage painting, Crossroads, and the third went to Russell Scott, for his construction O.N.C.O.. Installation art as a form was almost unknown. By and large, traditional forms of artmaking dominated the selections: painting, sculpture and printmaking, though Neville Hoad exhibited a conceptual piece, a found piece of cardboard crudely lettered in black koki reading PLEASE.HELP.ME.NO.JOBS.NO.FOOD.EVERYONE HELP ME under the title The limitations of Social Realism.

Sculptor Andries Botha won the Standard Bank Young Artist Award in 1991, combining wood, metal and rubber amongst other materials in his large scale sculptural tableaux. At the end of that year, I was honoured to be the first South African to be included in a post-apartheid biennale when my piece documenting the pages of one man's pass book, For Thirty Years Next to His Heart, was included on the Fourth Havana Biennial in Cuba.

The commercial gallery scene in the early nineties was dominated by the Goodman Gallery under the directorship of Linda Givon in Johannesburg, and the Gallery International under the almost equally formidable Esther Rousso in Cape Town. These two vied to show the leading artists, with the galleries of the South African Association of Arts in Cape Town, Pretoria, and in Durban, the Natal Society of Arts taking up the slack. The Market Theatre in downtown Johannesburg prided itself on showing more risky and cutting edge stuff, and elsewhere in the city, one of the first alternative galleries of note, the F.I.G. - the Famous International Gallery - opened its doors at the corner of Troye and Jeppe Streets in 1990, founded by Wayne Barker and Morris la Mancha. Ricky Burnett, who had broken new curatorial ground with his 'Tributaries' exhibition which placed art objects previously regarded as craft next to so-called high art pieces in his 1985 exhibition, thus setting a trend for such shows, opened the doors of the Newtown Galleries opposite the Market Theatre in 1991. FUBA, the Federated Union of Black Artists was right next door, a flea market held every Saturday drew huge crowds to the area, and at that time, the precinct was a lively hub of creative energy.

Jackson Hlungwane

Jackson Hlungwane
God and Christ 1990
Carved and stained wood

Wayne Barker

Wayne Barker

William Kentridge

William Kentridge & Doris Bloom
S 3E (fire drawing) 1994
4500 X 3000cm

Kendell Geers

Kendell Geers
"Title withheld (Obsession)" 1994
30 x 22 x 1.5 cm

Part II:
By 1992, South Africa was clearly on the road to its first democratic election, and the beginning of 1993 brought a belated invitation to the 45th Venice Biennale to be opened in June of that year. It was the first time South Africa would be represented at this significant international exhibition in 27 years. Selection was entrusted to the South African Association of Arts under the presidency of Louis Jansen van Vuuren. Countries at the Biennale are usually represented by one or at most, three artists, but in 1993, South Africa, in an attempt to be as representative as possible, sent the work of no less than 27 artists. The most important selections, showing in the Italian Pavilion in the Giardini di Castello, were , visionary sculptor Jackson Hlungwane and fabric artist Sandra Kriel. Ceramicist Bonnie Ntshalintshali was selected for 'Aperto', generally regarded to be the cutting edge of the Biennale, and 24 more artists could be seen at the Palazzo Giustinian Lolin. Though no State funding was available for participating artists to attend, most of the white artists made the trip. Too late, the organisers realised there would not be a single black artist at the opening, and sent a hurried message to Jackson Hlungwane that an air ticket would be made available to him. Carving away on his hillside in the far north of the country, Hlungwane declined, sending back this classic reply: "The message is good, but the radio is bad."

Off the beaten track in Venice the auxilliary exhibition might have been, but enough curious visitors found their way there to send out the message: "South Africa is back in the game." And then, too, Christopher Till, Director of Culture for the city of Johannesburg, chose the event to make known to the world that Johannesburg was in fact planning its own Biennale, less than two years in the future, and would be looking for the full support of the international art world in this venture. The idea had been the brainchild of Lorna Ferguson, ex director of Maritzburg's Tatham Gallery, and Ferguson and Till were to become partners in planning and selling the first Johannesburg Biennale to the world.

With the dawning of 1994, with the first democratic election now clearly in view, what better way for an international art person to get a piece of the new action than to go and see what was happening in that little bit of Africa until so recently in the political wasteland? Under the tutelage of AICA, the Africus Institute of Contemporary Art, funded by the city of Johannesburg, curators and museum people from around the world began making the trip down south. The premise of the first Biennale was to invite leading curators from a number of countries to put together shows involving their own artists with local selections. For instance, French curator Jean Hubert Martin's selections included Christian Boltanski, Thomas Hirschorn, and local artist Ian Waldeck. South African curators included Kendell Geers, who snared such international luminaries as Janine Antoni and Ilya Kabakov, and Emma Bedford, curating an all South African show under the title 'Objects of Defiance, Spaces of Contemplation.' On the Fringe, Wayne Barker scored something of a coup with a show entitled 'Laager' - a ring of shipping containers with one artist to transform each space. 'Laager' was set up in the open space between two of the main hubs of the Biennale, the old Electric Workshop, dramatically transformed for its new role as art venue, and the MuseumAfrica. The show was vibrant enough to elicit an invitation to the artists to restage the show in Chile.

Another of the successful aspects of this Biennale was a programme which looked at redressing the abysmal lack of young curatorial skills in the country - each host curator took on one young South African as an intern, a programme which has led to the development of such talents as Clive Kellner and Tumela Mosaka.

Of course, within the country, not everyone was in favour of the Biennale in the first place. To many it seemed that at a time when overseas funding for local community art projects was drying up (the battle against the State being seen as won), that the vast expenditure needed to bring a Biennale into being could have been much better spent building up grassroots skills and initiatives. The elite are catering for the elite, ran this argument. Our people do not even have the money for the most basic art materials. We cannot afford this kind of grandiose gesture. Countering this, Christopher Till would continue to point out over the next few years that for the powerful international art vistors who came to Johannesburg especially for the occasion, it was an education into the situation here, and that any number of the large and small exhibitions and art opportunities which arose for South African artists in the following years could be traced back directly to the Biennale.

And what was happening on the collection front? In 1992, in a special issue of the City of Johannesburg, South Africa's only art journal of note at the time, ADA, Art Design Architecture, had this to say under the heading of Corporate Art: "As the commercial centre of South Africa, Johannesburg is home to many corporate head offices, and the base for their art collections, some of which date back to the 30's. Serious collecting with business of shareholder money is a relatively new area of investment. Even so, a number of corporations prefer to remain silent about their activity, believing that public knowledge of expenditure on fine art assets will anger the trade unions. In terms of visible involvement in the arts, several big businesses come to mind: The Rembrandt Foundation (based in Cape Town and Stellenbosch), The Standard Bank of SA and Sasol".

Thanks in no small way to one of South Africa's most visible artists, Kendell Geers, this modest approach to corporate collection was about to change.

Trevor Makhoba

Trevor Makhoba
Umuzi Wezinsiwa 1995
Oil on canvas
45 X 60cm
Gencor Collection

Willem Boshoff

Willem Boshoff with Psephos 1995
Pebbles, wood, glass
200 X 300cm
Gencor Collection

Ernest Cole

An image of Ernest Cole's
in the 2nd issue of CO@RTNEWS

Part III:
In 1994, the Johannesburg mining house Gencor appointed Geers as art consultant, with a brief to build up a corporate collection, giving him a restricted budget but what amounted to a free artistic rein. The core of the collection, installed in the lift lobbies, consisted of ten works embodying the spirit of the new dispensation by such artists as Willem Boshoff, Willie Bester, Durant Sihlali and Penny Siopis. Dozens more works hang on the passage walls. As the chairman of Gencor was to write in the catalogue, published in 1997, "One day, early last year, I found a group of unskilled labourers animated argument around the Trevor Makhoba work that hangs in room 477. Never had this happened around the pastoral scenes of our earlier era. Perhaps that is the real measure of good art - Everyman cannot avoid involvement." In recent years, Gencor's example has led to the foundation of other progressive art collections by such companies as MNet and Vodacom.

Overall, the promotion of South African art has always been kept back by weak infrastructure and a chronic shortage of money. Take the case of art journals. Documentation of the country's art activities at the beginning of the nineties resided in the quarterly magazine of the SA Association of Arts, distributed free to members, which limited itself to reportage on activities and artists related to its galleries, and ADA magazine an extremely handsome publication which in spite of winning an award as best magazine in the country, came out at long irregular intervals, never managing to convince advertisers to buy sufficient space to guarantee its survival in the market place. The last issue of ADA was to appear in the mid nineties. In 1993, the country's most highly respected art critic, Ivor Powell of the then Weekly Mail, became editor of a new publication which would supersede the old SAAA Calendar: Ventilator. A promising first issue with great design and well written articles met an enthusiastic reception from the art world. But the same problem - lack of advertising money to finance publication - would force the closure of Ventilator after the launch issue. ArtThrob, the monthly magazine on contemporary art first went online in August 1997 and is now updated weekly, but not until 1999 would there be another attempt at the launch of a printed art journal. This time, the question of money would be sidestepped by garnering sufficient sponsorship to distribute the magazine free. Co@rtnews, under the editorship of Clive Kellner and Fernando Alvim, considers culture in the entire African continent, and has now produced its second issue.

But to get back to the artists and the work that they make. How has this developed in this decade of radical societal change? Following world trends, artists began quite early in the decade to utilise such forms as installation art, and that favoured form of the international art world, video, is slowly taking hold. In 1999, one of the first all-video shows, Channel, was curated by Robert Weinek at the Association for Visual Arts in Cape Town, featuring a number of video installations by such artists as Malcolm Payne, Bridget Baker and Stephen Hobbs, and a row of monitors with looped contributions from many more artists.

To discuss shifts in the way in which artists have attempted to deal with the transformative aspects of the new society is far more complex, and beyond the scope of a brief overview. It was this aspect of course: just how artists were dealing with the new dispensation, that captured the attention of a number of curators, both South African and international. Stimulated by the first and second Johannesburg Biennales and a sense of breaking virgin ground, a large number of survey type group shows were curated into being. One only has to look at the titles of these shows to sense the thrust of their curatorial intentions: Colours (1996), Don't Mess with Mr In-Between (1997), Passages (1997), Rewind Fast Forward .ZA (1999), Emergence, (1999), Liberated Voices, (1999). Inevitably, the quality of these shows varied. While many seem to have met with a measure of critical acclaim abroad, a reading of those foreign reviews is revealing. One finds a distance, a careful attention to political correctness, a desire to applaud the initiative, a sometimes quaint linking of the news of the show to such information as the fact that Michael Jackson is househunting in South Africa. Closer to home, critics, notably Brenda Atkinson of the Mail & Guardian, the country's most highly regarded newspaper, have become increasingly vociferous in their cutting analysis of these shows. The main criticism is that lack of curatorial rigour and attempts by curators to be too inclusive, too broad, too representative of the demographic situation within the country have resulted in a kaleidoscopic rather than a focussed look at the subject. Nonetheless, it must not be forgotten that to foreign audiences, these shows have often served as an enlightening and absorbing introduction to the art of a country of which they knew almost nothing.

Editor's note: This subject has proved too large for the three instalments originally envisaged. The series will continue next week, and look at the 'post-apartheid kids', the second Biennale and its aftermath, and the role of museums in the nineties.

Sam Nhlengethwa

Sam Nhlengethwa
It left him cold - the death of Steve Biko 1990
Collage, pencil and charcoal on paper
69 x 93cm
Standard Bank Collection

Malcolm Payne

Malcolm Payne
Untitled (USA), Untitled (Holland), Untitled (UK) 1995
Installation with commisioned inclusions by Brett Murray, Randolph Hartzenberg and Kagiso Mautloa
310 x 950 x 75 cm
Installation at 46th Venice Biennale

Kay Hassan

Kay Hassan
Shebeen 1997
Mixed Media
2nd Johannesburg Biennale

Part IV:
In fact, the reconnection of South African artists to the rest of Africa and to the world was undoubtedly the most important development of the decade. The acceptance of South Africa as an African country and not just a strangely perverted colonial hybrid was established with events like the Johannesburg Biennales, the invitations to South Africans to participate in events like the Dakar Biennales, and the inclusion in Britain's africa95 - a large scale initiative celebrating the arts of Africa which took place in Britain from August to December 1995.

"After too many years of neglect, contemporary African art is at last finding an international audience for its wide variety of productions - works that are frequently astonishing and always challenging, read the opening blurb of the catalogue for 'Seven Stories', the keynote show at the Whitechapel Art Gallery in London. The 'story' from South Africa was curated by veteran David Koloane, and entitled 'Moments in Art'. The show included such diverse artists as abstract practitioner Kevin Atkinson and collage artists Sam Nhlengethwa, Patrick Mautloa and Norman Catherine.

The year 1995 also marked the occasion of the 46th Venice Biennale. The official invitation for South Africa's participation lay around on the desk of the Association of Arts until almost too late, a little noticed and somewhat frantic last minute appeal was made to artists to submit proposals. Well aware that there was no pavilion space and no funding to rent space, Malcolm Payne, to 'achieve a dramatic presence' at the Biennale, proposed constructing three walls facing onto the pavilions of three countries involved in the history of Africa, which would read as 'sentinels or beacons recalling the past' and also be symbolic of the rebuilding process of South Africa. His request was trilaterally refused. Payne's final solution was to erect his walls in the gardens where all the national pavilions are located. The piece was called: Untitled (U.S.A.), Untitled (Holland), Untitled (U.K.) s and consisted of three stark terracotta walls built in the lush gardens of the Giardini di Castello, containing glass fronted niches with commissioned art objects relating to identity made by Brett Murray, Patrick Mautloa, and Randolph Hartzenberg.

Here at home, the largest show to mark the second half of the nineties was the 2nd Johannesburg Biennale of 1997. The first Biennale had been directed by Christopher Till and Lorna Ferguson, but now it was decided to cast the net wider, and the proposal finally accepted was that of Okwui Enwezor, a Nigerian curator living in New York, with his proposed theme of Trade Routes and Geography.
Enwezor gathered around himself a group of international curators, each of whom would curate a show around this theme: Hou Hanru, Yu Yeon Kim, Gerardo Mosquero, Kellie Smith and from Johannesburg, Colin Richards. The epi-centre of the Biennale would still be the Newtown precinct of downtown Johannesburg, but in an attempt to broaden the spread, two shows would be mounted in Cape Town as well, one, curated by Richards, in the South African National Gallery, and the second, by Kellie Smith, in Block B of the Cape Town Castle.

Further renovations were carried out on the Electric Workshop, which would host the flagship show Alternating Currents, curated by Enwezor and Octavio Zaya, turning it into a stunning exhibition space, with its huge volumes and industrial architecture. Chronic financial problems continued to dog the planning right up to the last minute, but generous support from overseas institutions allowed the Biennale to open its doors to reveal an exhibition which over the following months, in international art journals, would be widely hailed by overseas commentators as a landmark in Biennales. In the Electric Workshop, contributions by such international art stars as Stan Douglas, Pepon Osorio, Les Carpinteros, Steve McQueen Shirin Neshat and Ouattara shared space with local artists such as Kay Hassan, Penny Siopis and Pat Mautloa. In a laudatory piece in ArtForum, Dan Cameron, senior curator of the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York was to write: "It's impossible to deny the growing awareness that global art has finally passed from pipe dream to the paradigm of our times."

The local press was less congratulatory, going so far as to label the Biennale a fraud. In truth, although the show was an extraordinary visual feast for those schooled in the language of contemporary art, Enwezor's decision not to put up explanatory wall notes and the difficulty of locating catalogues made the work somewhat inaccessible to a middle-of-the-road audience. Add to the bad local press and the apathy of the general public the perceived crime factor of lower Johannesburg, and you have a formula for a massively under-attended Biennale. Presumably it is hard for those in charge of the purse strings, - in this case, the Metropolitan Council of Johannesburg, to take a world view. Whatever the bureaucratic reasoning , in mid December came the shock announcement of the preliminary closing of the Johannesburg wing of the Biennale, originally scheduled to run until early February, on the grounds of insufficient funds. Rallying of local forces extended the running time until January 18, but the damage to Johannesburg's growing reputation as the premier city for contemporary art on the continent had been done. The confidence of overseas funders had been shaken. In the shake up, the city also ceased to fund AICA, and director Bongiwe Dhlomo and her staff found themselves out of work. An entire infra-structure was destroyed in one blow.

Brett Murray

Brett Murray
Metal and plastic
180 X 120 X 15cm

Steven Cohen

Steven Cohen, in drag, thrown out of centenary celebrations by Neo Nazis

Fernando Alvim

Fernando Alvim
Inseparables 3 (detail) 1997
Coiled bed with brain form on one
side and heart on other

Jane Alexander

Jane Alexander
Street Cadets with Harbinger:
Wish, Walk/Loop Long
(detail) 1997-8
On 'Bringing Up Baby'

Part V:
Subsequent attempts to re-launch the Biennale initiative have foundered. Under Christopher Till, a fresh proposal was launched: Ubuntu was to be an international exhibition, but with the emphasis on art in public spaces, where it would be far more accessible. For whatever reasons, and efforts by ArtThrob last year to find out last year what had happened to Ubuntu were met with silence, this initiative too seems to have dissipated. The invigorating effect of cultural tourism on the economy and the crucial importance to a country of developing a rich culture are factors which seem to be totally ignored by those with the power to fund such events. It has been said that art will never be taken seriously in this country until the politicians take it seriously. The first two Biennales, in their scale and boldness, positioned Johannesburg as the premier city in Africa in the presentation of contemporary art. This position, and the influx of international art visitors, has now been lost to Cairo and Dakar, with their Biennales. With the announcement this week of the artists selected for the Dak'Art 2000 to be held in May, although by the standards of the Johannesburg Biennale a modest total of 21 participants, Dak'Art is clearly going from strength to strength.

But in the end, although it was by far the biggest, the 2nd Biennale was only one of a number of important exhibitions carving out fresh ground which characterised the nineties. With a new government in place, artists and curators moved to claim spaces which had formerly been off limits because of their associations with the apartheid state. The Cape Town Castle, built in 1658 by the original Dutch settlers who arrived to grow fresh vegetables for the sailors on their ships on their way to the Far East, and during the apartheid years, headquarters of the South African Defence Force, is a case in point. In mid 1995, seven young artists under the general direction of Wayne Barker mounted a show called 'Scurvy', scurvy being the skin disease contracted by sailors who didn't eat fresh vegetables. The show addressed issues around the history of the Castle, with Lisa Brice drawing parallels between the fortifications at the Castle and the modern suburban home surrounded with high security fences against crime. Brett Murray considered the conflation between indigenous cultural objects and tourist trash, and Barker himself positioned the Dutch East India Company as the first multinational - his world map made of green bottles set in a sea of old khaki military uniforms had the logo of the Company, V.O.C., flashing in neon at Cape Town.

The old stone walls and interleading rooms of the Castle lend themselves easily to art, and 'Scurvy' was followed by 'Sluice', a series of installations, performances, and plastic tubes of running water by a group of Cape Town students, and a significant show which considered issues around the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, 'Faultlines' (1996), curated by Jane Taylor. In January 1998, a powerful show reflecting on the effects of war in Africa was mounted at the Castle, spearheaded by Angolan artist Fernando Alvim, and including Cuban artist Carlos Garocaia and Capetonian Gavin Younge. 'Intimas, Marcos, Memorias' was to continue to the Electric Workshop in Johannesburg, gathering steam, new work and additional artists as it went, and from there to the African Window in Pretoria, where some critics considered it reached a zenith. The show is now on the international circuit. Later that year, the Terry Kurgan curated show 'Bringing Up Baby' arrived from the Grahamstown National Art Festival, and marked a change in curatorial direction from the generally political to the personally political: artists made work around the issues of childbearing and parenting.

On Robben Island, transformed from the world's most infamous political prison to a museum, now a world cultural heritage site, nine artists installed work in the tiny cubicles divided by a glass window where prisoners once received visits from their visitors. The show, mounted in 1997, was called 'Thirty Minutes' - the length of time of a prison visit. Although up for almost two years and lauded in a number of overseas publications, the exhibition was seen by few - the island management did not seem to support the exhibition, and visitors to the island were given 15 minutes at the end of their tour to see either the penguins or 'Thirty Minutes'. In Cape Town's District Six, site of one of the apartheid states most public removal programmes, more than 80 artists mounted outdoor projects on Heritage Day, September 24, in 1997, a day which also featured music and celebrations.

January 1998 was to see an initiative up north when Kendell Geers decided to intervene with the centenary celebrations of a right-wing icon, Fort Klapperkop, situated just outside Pretoria. Geers announced that he would lock himself into the building in the name of art, and that all of the other activities planned by the various Afrikaner groups for the centenary day, like prayers and flaghosting, to mark the event would become part of his artwork, a subsidiary role furiously denied by the groups concerned. "People have told me not scratch where it doesn't itch", said Geers at the time, "But that's my job. I set out to draw attention to the unspoken, and not only in relation to Afrikaner nationalism. I've made a site-specific work that explores the mechanisms and depths of guilt." After a week of controversy about the invitations and the posters in which the sponsors, the French Institute, withdrew, the exhibition was cancelled On the day of the celebrations, Geers was nowhere to be seen,and it was left to friend and fellow artist, drag performer Steven Cohen, who had driven out to Fort Klapperkop in support of Geers to hold the day for art. Dressed in blonde wig and black dress, Cohen was shown off the premises by AWB heavies. "I was also in the army. I have a right to be here too", he shouted as he left. Later he was to say. "I didn't expect such a violent reaction. I wanted to see if Afrikaans culture could make way for this kind of thing."

Steven Cohen

Steven Cohen
Living Art My Life 1998
Mixed media
Wins the Vita Award 1998

Jane Alexander

Jane Alexander
Stripped ("Oh Yes" Girl) 1995
Mixed media

Kendell Geers
Kendell Geers and Bili Bidjocka
Heart of Darkness (1997)
Mixed media installation
Photo by: Michael Hall

Part VI:
Later that year, 1998, Steven Cohen was to be announced winner of the Vita Art Prize over the head of such a powerful contender as William Kentridge, fresh from a showing at Documenta X. The Vita Art Prize, South Africa's most coveted award, had undergone a considerable metamorphosis in the nineties. At the beginning of the decade, the prize of R10 000 was awarded for the best exhibition in Johannesburg in any one year. Quarterly winners and runners up would be announced, all of whom would show their exhibition work in the Award Show held in the Johannesburg Art Gallery the following year. At the opening of this event, an overall winner and two runners up would be handed award cheques to a background of polite applause.

From 1991 to 1996 the winners were Karel Nel, Andries Botha, William Kentridge, Guy du Toit, Sue Williamson, and as joint winners in 1996, Jane Alexander and Kevin Brand. The problem with this cumbersome system was that firstly, the work the artists showed was often now more than a year old , with so many exhibitors, the exhibition was a bit of a mish mash, and finally, it was limited to artists showing in the Johannesburg area. Annual rumblings of discontent became heard. In 1997, a new system was devised, based loosely on Britain's prestigious Turner Prize. Five artists nominated by a committee and by the public based on their previous year's performance would each receive R4 000 to make a new piece to be shown later in the year on the Award Show. The venue would move to the Sandton Civic Art Gallery, under the energetic direction of Natasha Fuller. The Vita Award thus gained focus, freshness and prestige. The first Vita, (now R15 000) under the new system went to Willem Boshoff in 1997, Steven Cohen won in 1998 for his outrageous performances in drag, and most recently, Jo Ractliffe won in 1999 for a multi screen video projection.

There is an award with a much bigger pot of gold available - yet somehow an air of provincialism clings to it, and no-one seems to pay it much attention. This is the ABSA Atelier award for artists between the ages of 21-35. Regional submissions from artists are followed by a national judging in Pretoria. There is a prize of R60 000 and an air ticket to Paris, where the winner resides for some months in an apartment in the Cite des Arts, before returning to make a post-Parisian exhibition of work. The most recent winner of this award was Johannesburg's Ryan Arenson.

The last of the big three prizes of the South African art world is the Standard Bank Young Artist Award, for the under forties, always tied in with the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown. The winner's work is shown in the unprepossessing gallery in the Monument Theatre, (when will they get rid of that cheap grey carpet) and thereafter tours the major art galleries of the country, accompanied by a catalogue. In the first part of the nineties, with the anxious struggle for political correctness, it was said that one could tell who would win the award - if it was a white female last year, this year it would go to a black male. Perhaps the standout winner of this period was Jane Alexander, in 1995, with the powerful mixed media sculptures of her 'Integration Programme' series, reflecting the confusions and difficulties of the times.

The Grahamstown Festival, whatever it may have done for the development of theatre in this country, does not have a good record on the visual arts. Apart from the Monument Theatre Gallery, a real kiss-of-death number with its office-like interior, there is the stark Gallery in the Round, a space carved out under the main theatre stage after a fire raged through the building. Kendell Geers and Bili Bidjocka were the first to show there with their Heart of Darkness installation in 1998, followed last year by William Kentridge with his multi-screen video projection Ulisse Echo. The Gallery in the Round is the only good venue in Grahamstown. Otherwise, there is the colonial Albany Museum, host over the years to such large survey shows as Clive van den Berg's 'Passages' and the Julia Charlton/Fiona Rankin Smith 'Emergence'. With the best curatorial will in the world, attempts to mount cleanly hung shows in the Albany Museum generally come to nought, victim to all the other quilters and watercolourists and others who seem to lay claim to the space.

One year, 1994, Linda Givon decided to brave it and show Grahamstown how a good Johannesburg show should look, and took her Goodman Gallery artists to the Glennie Exhibition Centre in the Victoria Primary School. A fine show it was too, clean white space, good lighting, a row of brilliantly hued paintings from Robert Hodgins and Norman Catherine and a joint cut paper and charcoal wall drawing installation by Hodgins and Kentridge. It was certainly an antidote to all those hippyfied offerings elsewhere around the town. But it was quiet. Too quiet. In subsequent years, Givon would confine her efforts to the main gallery spaces in the Monument.

In 1997, Oudsthoorn began to wonder why Grahamstown should have all the fun, and mounted the first of the Klein Karoo Arts Festivals. The aim was to celebrate Afrikaans culture, but also to show how this culture had now declared itself to be open, and free to assimilate other cultural influences. The first of these festivals will be remembered mainly for the fact that singer Miriam Makeba was assaulted vociferously with the k-word, and pelted with beer cans as she sang on the stage. "We regret", said Ton Vosloo of Nasionale Pers, main sponsors of the event, " that a minority tried to spoil a beautiful attempt to keep Afrikaans as broad as possible".

There were those who questioned whether after such an inauspicious beginning, the festival could regain credibility and continue, but by 1999, the Klein Karoo Kunsfees was getting into its stride, mounting the kind of art shows which should make Grahamstown look to its laurels.

Lisa Grobler

Lisa Grobler
From Oos-Wes Tuis Bes

Randy Hartzenberg

Randy Hartzenberg
From Oos-Wes Tuis Bes

Andrew Porter

Andrew Porter & Elias Pienaar
Verneukpan / Hex River / Cape Town
Mixed media
From Bloedlyn

Peter Eastman and Matthew Hindley

Peter Eastman and Matthew Hindley
Two tone
Surveillance video projection
On 'Softerve' at the SANG

Part VII:
"By proudly positioning itself in the centre of Oudtshoorn's main thoroughfare, 'Oos Wes, Tuis Bes' (East West, Home's Best) unpretentiously deflates the traditional confines of the gallery," wrote Lauren Shantell in ArtThrob of April '99. "Instead, it offers itself to the teeming masses, who unceremoniously poked, prodded and even laughed at its 14 wendy-house structures, before becoming perplexed and amazed by the individual installations on show." The show was curated by Mark Coetzee and and Liza Hugo, and the structures were small, wooden garden-shed type cabins, each artist being allocated one for a project. Lize Grobler engaged the local women in the making of her piece - inviting them to crochet hundreds of wool squares made into a protective covering for her house. Bridget Baker made her little wooden house a testament to her past, filling the space with old letters and mothballs, to be glimpsed through knitted walls, and Randolph Hartzenberg filled his space with his familiar trademark of bags of salt, symbols of sustenance and pain.

Elsewhere in the town, 14 pairs of artists and writers battled it for creative ascendancy or collaborated successfully in twinned works on 'Bloedlyn' (Bloodline) in a show curated by Lien Botha, a show strong enough to withstand the transplant to Cape Town's AVA gallery later in the year.

With the spilling out of art into public spaces, and the trend for artists to curate shows, another change to be marked up for the nineties is the sheer number of shows, both here and overseas, in which today's recognised artists are invited to participate. This proliferation of art events has of course, has also much to owe to the new communication processes, email and the internet, which have radically speeded up the time needed to get a show organised. At the beginning of the nineties, a curator who wished an artist to participate in a show would send a letter by mail. Even fax machines - or in artists' studios, anyway - were still a rarity at the beginning of the decade, and a letter would be posted back, expressing interest. All this took time. Slides of current work would be posted to the curator, selections would be made, and eventually everything would be organised. Today, an emailed request from a curator can be answered immediately - the artist usually has on file in the computer statements about various pieces, and JPEG images of the work which can be emailed with them. Click click and the latest updated cv joins the package. Ironically, all of this electronic energy saving does not give the artist more time to make work in the studio, as one might imagine. Before, one letter a month to be answered would be plenty. Now each day brings a fresh crop of emails, all to be dealt with. Want to make a friendship sculpture for a town in China? An equine image for a group in Texas? Even if you have not been invited directly, you can click on to the Exchange page of ArtThrob or some other art website to read about these and a selection of other far flung opportunities waiting to be taken up.

So what role has the internet played in democratising the art world? Hailed at one time as the means whereby the traditional enclaves of curatorial and institutional power controlling access to shows and selections can be electronically bypassed, the web has partially allowed this to happen. But what is also clear is that possession of access to the www has become a gateway in itself. Those artists - and this includes most black artists in this country - who do not have easy access to computer facilities are denied what has become the easiest and most often used method of getting information in and out.

Museums, too, have become part of the electronic network, most hosting their own web-page of varying complexity. Sites like Museums Online (Hyperlink, please) allow overseas visitors to Cape Town to see exactly what is on offer before they come, in order to facilitate their planning.

Museums and their changing role in the South Africa of the 90's is a subject worthy of a thesis. Here, we will have to sum up the situation by saying that all the major art institutions are struggling to come to terms with what a museum can or can't be. And with how, on a miniscule budget, one can draw in an audience which is not in the habit of museum-going, while at the same time fulfilling the traditional role of a museum in building up a sound and exciting collection of contemporary art which will be a fine reflection of the country's artists.

The Johannesburg Art Gallery, situated as it is in Joubert Park, near Johannesburg's main station, is possibly in the worst situation. At the beginning of the decade, it was still pulling in good audiences for its shows, but sadly a sharp increase in muggings in the area has largely eliminated a general audience. Parking outside during the 2nd Biennale, I was told by a security guard, waving his arm at an area just past the museum, "Don't go over there. They're shooting people over there today." Hardly conducive to encouraging nervous foreigners.

More cheerfully, the Durban Art Gallery, in the city's heart, has led the way in instituting in 1998 a new kind of museum experience - the art/dance/music/performance party, held on a regular basis and attracting huge young audiences to the monthly Redeye event. Under the guidance of Public Eye, a group of artists involved in organising public art events, the South African National Gallery followed suit in 1999 with Softserve, a gallery wide event which attracted an unprecedented audience of 1500, many of them in the museum for the first time. Coloured lighting changed the vibe throughout the gallery, guests danced wildly in the atrium, there was live link up to New York in the deejay room, and a programme of performance art ran through the evening. Redeye and Softserve seem set to continue in the new decade.

And perhaps the dream of many artists will be realised: that the major cities get new spaces, contemporary art museums, without the baggage of mediocre bequest work which must be shown. Spaces where experimental work will be welcomed, and no one will feel intimidated. Spaces where contemporary art can intrigue and puzzle and delight and act as the stimulus to viewers which is within its power.

Next week: The concluding episode: the artists of the nineties.




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