"This issue is bigger than me," explains Kendell Geers in an exclusive interview with ArtThrob, "and involves every artist in the collection, from Picasso and Rembrandt to Sekoto and Siopis." He is clarifying some of the statements contained in his two open letters to Maishe Maponya, Director: Arts, Culture and Heritage Services for the City of Johannesburg.
As it however transpires, Kendell Geers has been arguing the same points for ages, an article written in 1997 loudly warning of the perils facing the Johannesburg Art Gallery. "It was ironic that, in the end, it was my own works that was stolen and vandalised," he comments.
If pressed to answer why this issue focuses such an inordinate amount of attention on Geers, the response would be varied - and also simple. Johannesburg stands at the troubled centre of South Africa's transformation process. As Terry Kurgan's overview of events at Constitution Hill (not quite incidentally up the road from the Johannesburg Art Gallery) reveal, there is much to be optimistic about. Then again there is a long list of talented artists living in exile. Kendell Geers is but one of them.
"You [expletive] scared him away," ArtThrob is accused in a letter published in Feedback. In his interview Kendell Geers, however, points the finger elsewhere, his explanations and accusations encompassing far more than just the City of Johannesburg's beleaguered old art gallery.
A limited edition print by Zwelethu Mthethwa will launch Editions for ArtThrob. Set to launch in December, this venture will make the work of South Africa's best artists widely accessible to new audiences, as well as provide an opportunity for collectors to build up a unique collection. The distribution of a new print every two months will also create the necessary financial support to sustain www.artthrob.co.za. Other than Zwelethu Mthethwa, artists Tracey Rose, Robert Hodgins, Kay Hassan and Hentie van der Merwe have also confirmed their participation.
Next Update: 1 December