'As long as I’ve had a sense of the practice and production of contemporary art in South Africa, it has been coupled with an awareness of art competitions.' So writes Johannesburg editor Michael Smith in an introduction to an interview
with Clive van den Berg, curator of the new Spier Contemporary competition, for which entries and proposals must be in by the end of this month. Spier Contemporary will take the place of the Brett Kebble Art Awards, halted in the runup to the third event by the murder of founder Brett Kebble. With the advent of Spier Contemporary, there will again be a survey show, the only one in the country, where it will be possible to see new work from contemporary artists from all over. And a promise from the organisers is that the work selected will be presented as the artist requests.
Although there are art competitions and awards in most countries, perhaps they play a more prominent part here because of the pitifully underfunded state of the visual arts, and the difficulty most artists encounter in trying to get even a modest amount of funding for art projects. In general, sponsors are regarded as invaluable and highly respected for their support of the visual arts.
But at the same moment as ArtThrob congratulates the latest winner of the ABSA Atelier Award, Pierre Fouché, we run an account in the OPINION column by last year's winner of the Gerard Sekoto award in the same competition whose experience of her prize was not a happy one.
After the spotlight and excitement of the announcement of the competition winner has faded, the responsibility lies on the sponsor of making certain that all initial promises are met, and met on time, and that follow up is fully effective.
In August last year, we mistakenly announced it was our tenth birthday, but this time around, it really is. Our first little edition appeared on the Internet Africa site in August 1997. Ten years of ArtThrob is no mean achievement. The format of the website is unique in the world in the way that it represents the contemporary art and artists of one country, and as we are often told by visiting curators and historians, and by teachers and artists in other countries, their research has been immeasurably helped by the resource of ArtThrob. When we started out, there was no other general art site, no Art South Africa, no Art Times. We are glad the field has filled out, and it justifies our belief in the extraordinary vitality of the art world here.
So, thank you everybody, ArtThrob staffers, contributors, readers, galleries, advertisers, our hosts MWeb, and all the artists whose work has appeared here over the years or who have supported us by giving work to the Editions for ArtThrob series. We salute you all.
And here's to the next ten years.
NEXT UPDATE: Sunday, September 9
Young Michaelis graduates make a splash this month with two solo shows at the most prestigious galleries in Cape Town. Mikhael Subotzky's solo show opens at Goodman Gallery Cape, and Nandipha Mntambo exhibits at the Michael Stevenson Gallery. Carine Zaayman moves her 'The secret adventures of Lady Ann Barnard and Other Diversions' to the Irma Stern Museum.
Johan Thom presents 'The Theory of Flight', a video installation produced whilst on residency in Bangladesh last year, and young photographer Nontsikelelo Veleko holds her first one-person show at the Goodman. Arlene Amaler-Raviv shows at Worldart Johannesburg and the Wits Art Galleries host the Martienssen Prize exhibition.
There are not too many new exhibitions as the city recovers from Fashion Week, Film Festival, the Beach Festival and the July Handicap. 'Breathing Spaces' continues to court controversy at the Durban Art Gallery while the exhibition of Gerard Sekoto works there is eagerly anticipated. Gabisile Nkosi and Lindelani Ngwenya open their show at the African Art Centre.
Pretty much most of South Africa's most prominent artists feature on international shows in the Northern hemisphere this summer. Candice Breitz shows at the White Cube, Mikhael Subotzky takes part in a group show at Flowers East, while Kentridge and Goldblatt show in Edinburgh and Milan respectively. Goldblatt opens anther show in California too.
Recent Michaelis graduate Fabian Saptouw presents his final year project 'Unravelled and Rewoven Canvas' at the new Michael Stevenson Side Gallery where Tavish McIntosh saw it. She describes him as 'well versed in the complex interrelation between materialism and conceptualism', noting that although the work is clearly the result of 'rampant conceptualism', Saptouw is clearly responsive to the 'material demands of art-making'. She also reviews the Goodman's first themed show at their new Cape Town premises. 'The Loaded Lens', she claims, 'is remarkable not only for its sheer scale and bravura, but also for its disquieting cumulative narrative that consummately documents the tensions underlying photography'. Reader Tambudzai La Verne Sibanda submitted a review of Jill Trappler's 'Studio Conversation', a collection of work from the last two decades. She contends that Trappler's gradual move from the pure abstraction of her earliest work to a greater reliance on figuration, reflects not so much a maturation as the fact that her work has always 'been mature in its attempt to explore new possibilities'.
In 'Wishful Thinking', Frances Goodman once again explores aspects of obsessive behaviour, frequently registering and satirising the 'less spectacular moments of human thought'. What she's really getting at, Michael Smith points out, is 'the psychology of avoidance at work underneath it all, the manner in which aspirational pursuits provide the practitioner with an "out" from dealing with their existence as it happens to be at that moment'. Grace Kotze's 'A sense of...' at Gordart features smaller figurative works alongside larger landscapes. In both, abstraction vies with figuration, and the artist pitches photographic detail against the qualities of her paint and its application. Tracey-Louise Edwards reviews. Amongst other things, contends Landi Raubenheimer, 'Africa Remix' asks 'How does Africa see itself in the contemporary art world?' Featuring 85 artists from 25 countries, this vast exhibition contains many lens-based works, turning the tables on conventions which have for a long time had the lens trained on the continent from the outside. Raubenheimer teases out a number of thematic concerns including the dialectics of insider/outsider and she notes a powerful manipulation and use of space by many artists.
MTN's sizeable collection of contemporary art finally gets its first public showing. Carol Brown appreciates the depth, variety and structure of the exhibition, some of which resonates uncannily with the building in which it is currently hosted. She notes also the presence of work from other countries in Africa, something not frequently seen here. 'Now and Then', held on occasion of Andrew Verster's 70th birthday, presents models, maquettes and other work related to much of Verster's public work from costume to interior design, alongside new paintings from his recent Bodyworks series. Carol Brown notes that 'continuity with change' is a hallmark of this artist's prodigious output, and looks forward to his ten year retrospective which opens in Grahamstown next year.
Hot on the heels of the announcement of this year's Absa L'Atelier Award winners, we run Nomusa Makhubu's story of her disappointing experience following the awarding to her of the competition's Gerard Sekoto prize last year.
Michael Smith interviews Clive van den Berg, artist and curator of the Spier Contemporary, entries for which are due by August 27. Smith questions the role of competitions in SA art as well as what distinguishes Spier Contemporary from any of its predecessors.
Capetonian Pierre Fouché wins the Absa l'Atelier Award. The Michaelis Tuesday Lecture Series features staff and students reports on Venice and Documenta amongst other topics in the near future. Tavish McIntosh reports on the 're-opening' of Cape Town's Museum of Contemporary Art, while Carol Brown speaks to Brenton Maart, new Director of the KZNSA. Also in KZN, we run an obituary for master weaver Reuben Ndwandwe who has died in KwaZulu-Natal. In Johannesburg, the Decorex Conference hosts 'Conversations on Architecture', a conference featuring several global experts, while next month 'Jive Soweto!', an exhibition curated by Melissa Mboweni, opens at the Hector Pietersen Museum in Soweto. Textile artist Daina Mabunda, well known for, amongst other things, her ongoing collaboration with Bronwen Findlay, has died. In Paris, first censored then stolen: a Kendell Geers artwork is spotted on a fleamarket.
Ed Young had a long, feverish month. Read about it here.
Mikhael Subotzky, newly nominated to the elite Magnum Photo Agency in New York, is the subject of August Artbio.
Ed Young once again has his knives out. This month he visited www.saartsemerging.org
There is a call for submissions for a public sculpture at the International Convention Centre, Durban and the Jan van Eyck Academie in the Netherlands invites proposals for research periods. Closer to home, the Arts and Culture Trust invites award nominations.
Nothing interesting to report from the front, unfortunately.
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We publish the image of the new William Kentridge print for Editions for ArtThrob for the first time. Regrettably for those who would have liked to have ordered one of these stunning prints, such was the level of interest from readers, that the entire edition was sold out, sight unseen, before the prints arrived. Such is the Kentridge charisma.
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