Art as Capital
by Sean O'Toole
A work by the artist Joseph Beuys goes a long way towards encapsulating this show. A pine-framed blackboard features a short epithet written in red. 'Kunst = Kapital', reads the cursive script to a work of the same name. For gallerist and dealer Warren Siebrits art in indeed capital; hence this clever little show.
"It is sad to note that many South African art dealers and galleries have actively advised clients against collecting prints, reinforcing the perception that graphics are of little value and importance as artworks," Warren Siebrits states in the catalogue accompanying this show. "Thank goodness perceptions are changing, especially due to the success Kentridge's work enjoys abroad."
A show celebrating the objective economic value of the print and art multiple, this show certainly astounds with the calibre of the artists on display. Artists represented include Alan Alborough, Jane Alexander, Walter Battiss, Hans Bellmer, Joseph Beuys, Elza Botha, Marlene Dumas, Paul Edmunds, Kendell Geers, Barbara Hepworth, Robert Hodgins, John Muafangejo, Thomas Knuna, Cyprian Shilakoe, Penny Siopis, Cecil Skotnes and Andy Warhol.
It's a diverse range, and viewed purely in economic terms offers forthright opportunity to buy some eminently collectable artworks. "Kendell Geers really and truly is an excellent artist to buy," Linda Givon has told me. "His works are not expensive." Geers is represented by a number of works on this show, including an early work entitled Yellow Christ (1992), a piece first exhibited on 'Aids: The Exhibition' at the now defunct ICA, in Newtown, Johannesburg.
For anyone interested in Jane Alexander, the show offers a rare opportunity to obtain her work. ("Look out to for Jane Alexander," Linda Givon has told me. "If you can get work, she is very sought after.") Alexander is represented by three digital ink prints, two of the works taken from her psychologically unsettling African Adventure series.
Sure it is easy to dismiss this show as a commercially motivated enterprise that offers rather nebulous insights into the place of prints and multiples in recent art history. But as Kendell Geers pointed out last year, truly speaking it is the role of the public art museum to produce curatorially succinct retrospectives, not the private dealer. And, in truth, this isn't meant to be incisive history of the print and art multiple; it is a show that situates art in a mercantile economy, that unsavoury place most artists seemingly like to deny their work has any relationship with. Viewed as such it must be an immensely successful show: I left the gallery having bought a work of art.
Opening: February 20
Closing: March 29
Warren Siebrits Modern and Contemporary Art
140 Jan Smuts Avenue, Parkwood, Johannesburg
Tel: 011. 327-0000
Fax: 011. 327-5999
Hours: Wednesday to Friday 12 - 6 pm, Saturday 12 - 4 pm