On the occasion of Goodman Gallery’s 50th anniversary today, we’ve been looking through our archive in search of a history of the Goodman Gallery through the eyes of ArtThrob. Here’s a selection of some of the great stuff we found.
In December 1999, Goodman Gallery was still the only contemporary art gallery of note, and we ran a short profile on Linda Givon. In her words:
“I’m trying to do something out of a mission of 35 years, during which I’ve shown modern art from all over the world at the Goodman. In the last 10 years, I’ve moved more into cutting edge, contemporary art, always taking into account the social demographics of this country. Now we are externalising more and more – using the internet to sell art. Of course, our exchange rate makes it difficult to bring in foreign art – who here can afford it – but I would love to start showing artists from Cuba and Latin America here. The Goodman has stepped beyond the borders of a commercial gallery in helping artists show overseas, but we can’t go on doing it – the government must realise how important culture is and start doing their part”
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Nine years later, we featured an interview with Liza Essers, who bought the Goodman from Givon. Our favourite bit:
“Cara Snyman: Will you comment on the transaction amount, rumoured to be R20 000 000?
Liza Essers: That is the million dollar question! No Comment.”
Dammit. We’re still dying to know. But later Essers has the following to say:
“I think our biggest challenge as an arts community is to really work together in a couple of areas to grow the contemporary art industry. One such area is museum space – it just seems ridiculous that the SA National Gallery has an acquisition budget of a R140 000 a year. Museums are just not supported by government and corporates, and we need to really look at that as an industry, and as a community. The second thing is to make contemporary art more accessible and to expand the audience within South Africa, otherwise the industry cannot expand.”
Of course, though, artists are the life blood of a gallery, and we have reviewed a fair number of them. In 2002, Sean O’Toole found Tracey Rose’s ‘Ciao Bella’ accomplished and intriguing:
“There are many reasons to regard ‘Ciao Bella’ as an accomplished piece of art. It deftly confronts its audience with the multiple legacies of oppression, be they sexual, racial or political. Rose successfully achieves this without tending towards self-conscious sentimentality. Her video installation remains mysteriously playful while pointed in its function. The artist has also managed to achieve a subtle interplay between genres, her photographic portraits buttressing the action that unfolds on the video.”
And ten years on, we are still looking at the great stars of their stable. Michael Smith in 2011 comes to terms with William Kentridge’s Johannesburg:
“And as much as Kentridge’s focus has shifted away from direct engagement with the city in the past five or so years, during which he was concerned with Nikolai Gogol’s The Nose, a narrative of power gone awry in post-Revolutionary Russia, this latest show proves that his has always been a project of redefining the manner in which we make meaning of Johannesburg.”
Goodman has always had a phenomenal breadth in its representation, as pointed out by Andrew Lamprecht in a 2009 review of a group show ‘Revue’:
“I imagine that the number of local galleries that could muster an exhibition of this quality and variety from their stockrooms could be counted on one hand, leaving a few fingers to spare. Here we see Stern, Battiss, Sekoto, Skotnes, Kentridge, Koloane, Feni, Geers, Hodgins, Legae, Muafangejo, et al in a quantity and quality that truly takes one’s breathe away: a truly awe-inspiring revue and a tribute to Linda Givon’s eye and mind as founder and guiding spirit of the Gallery until very recently.”
The gallery has also not necessarily shied away from the more experimental. A slightly acerbic Brendan Grey in 2007 reviewed Kathryn Smith’s ‘In Camera’:
“To enter into the discourse of magic acts is to risk failure. For me ‘In Camera’ is a form of high stakes conceptualism: the content of the exhibition is singularly reliant of a single turn for its effect: lights on – nothing; lights off – something. The most unfathomable magic tricks are often those with the simplest mechanics. The blacklight exposure device ironically allows the absence of light to produce visual information, and normal lighting conditions just manage to conceal by producing invisibility. But Smith’s is indeed a very clever trick.”
The Goodman has also taken care to take on rising young stars. Here Percy Mabandu takes a look a Gerald Machona’s 2014 ‘Vabvakure’:
“Importantly, by using a Shona word, Machona allows the branded ‘foreigner’ to take power over the naming of his condition. The apparent estrangement is submitted to the subject’s own language, and its system of logic and cosmology. So Machona avoids the pitfalls that G.A Heron outlines in his introduction to Okot p’Bitek’s poem Son of Lawino: ‘There is a grave danger that with the tool of language they will borrow other foreign things.'”
“These parallel explorations between event, fact, story-telling, and the everyday borrow from traditions of the documentary but choose to situate this historical trajectory in a manner that centres the human as the primary site of memorial, allowing space for a tradition of contemporary documentary photography that is occupied with the poetic landscape, rather than the physical one.”
We could go on. But let us leave this as a brief celebration