This week a Zimbabwean friend of mine has his opening in Paris, and, at risk of slipping on a puddle of bad taste, may I say this particular migrant is sorely tempted to smuggle himself back onto the trucks at Dover. I am ever a 'Slasher' and I can indeed relate to the precariousness of these layered identities we create thousands of miles from our birthplace. Beautiful work. http://galeriemitterrand.com/fr/expositions/presentation/127/slashers
SLASHERS: The works presented in this new exhibition are striking in their typology of the figures represented, primarily tightrope walkers and skaters, in a state of precarious equilibrium.These figures are referred to by the artist as ‘slashers.’ This term, coined by Marci Alboher of the NYTimes, is a derivative of ‘slash,’ the typographical symbol (/), omnipresent on the Internet. Duncan Wylie’s ‘slashers’ correspond to a recent sociological classification applied to thirtysomethings who juggle multiple jobs out of economic necessity, but also out of a desire to diversify their professional experience. Between precariousness and the construction of a plural identity, slashers find a particular resonance in Wylie’s work: they are repeated, blended together, and decontextualized from painting to painting. At once universal and immediately identifiable, they remain hermetic and elusive. As Duncan Wylie explains: ‘These figures were not decided on in advance, they are more the result of events taking place in the paintings; they emerge from, and adapt to what is happening in the layers of the painting.’
The Southern African International Art Revolution hits the art season with a vengeance this week
Where: 26 Barrett Street, London, W1U 1BG (Closest Tube Bond St)
Exhibition: Broken English Group Show
Closing Date: Oct 28
Why you’re going to see it: Tyburn is new, SA-owned & there’s good work here from credible young artists
Tyrburn’s first show curated by Kim Stern features work from Southern African artists: Bridget Baker, Mohau Modisakeng, Athi-Patra Ruga, Dan Halter, Michele Mathison, Rowan Smith, Moffat Takadiwa. The work is a combination of photography, painting, sculpture and tapestry. The show is essentially a visual conversation about citizenship and identity in an increasingly globalised world. Website: www.tyburngallery.com
Where: Somerset House, Strand, London WC2R 1LA
Exhibition: 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair
Dates: Oct 15-18
Why you’re going to see it: It’s some of the best art from your home continent, need another reason?
1:54 references the fifty-four countries of Africa and reflects the fair’s mission: on an international stage to present a platform which represents the multiplicity and diversity of contemporary African art and cultural production. SA galleries present: Afronova, Johannesburg, CIRCA Gallery, Johannesburg, GALLERY AOP, Johannesburg Jack Bell Gallery, London. (SA Owned) Johans Borman Fine Art, Cape Town. Special project: Qubeka Bead Studio, Cape Town.
This is a treat it’s a simple as that. Website: www.1-54.com/london/
SA artists at Affordable Art Fair
Where: Battersea Evolution, Battersea Park, London, SW11 4NJ
Exhibition: Affordable Art Fair
Dates: Oct 22-25
Why you’re going to see it: Apart from being a fun night out, you might even buy some art
Two sisters, Johannesburg based Gill Glyn-Jones and London based Veda Hallowes are showing their sculpture at the Affordable Art Fair next week in Battersea Park on Stand D2. Gill works in pure silver sheet, set on semi-precious stone bases, with Evolution as her theme, and Veda works in bronze using fruits as a metaphor for the female figure. Website: www.kaleidoscope-arts.co.uk
Other hot tickets:
Frieze Art Fair: 14 - 17 October 2015, Regent’s Park, London, UK
Summary: The most mind-blowing art event in the London Calendar, over the 300 galleries, 1000s of artworks. Purportedly the best of the best contemporary art; make a day of it and you decide.
Bonhams Africa Now – Contemporary Africa Auction: 15 Oct, Starts at 14:00 101 New Bond Street, London W1S 1SR.
Summary: If you have never attended an Auction, this is a good one, African contemporary art under the hammer.
This week, SA galleries Erdmann Contemporary and Gallery Momo are showing at the Startartfair.com (For 'emerging artists and new art scenes' Until Sept 13.
Over the next 6 months I have made it my mission to visit as many galleries as possible and report back when they are relevant to our SA audience. So there’s a show happening in London this week with South African galleries taking part. Why should you care? In fact why should you care about South African art at all?
When cracks show in the dreams of a nation, artists plant the flowers between the cracks
Fine art in SA at the moment may feel like shiny irrelevant trinkets made to dazzle the super-rich, however... keep in mind, when the shit hits the fan (as it will), artists are the nutters who paint little faces on the truncheons!
Erdmann Contemporary are showing the work of Nomusa Makhubu
Nomusa is UCTs first young black female fine art lecturer (with a PHD). I'm gonna go out on a limb and say we need more like her? Erdmann are also launching '120 Days of Sodom' by artist Manfred Zylla, whose pics are backed up by 31 distinguished writers’ essays. (One of whom neatly, is Nomusa). Check the pdf here:
Gallery Momo are showing the fearless work of Mary Sibande
Mary Sibande is another young black female artist to watch. Her work: ‘A Terrible Beauty is Born’ cuts through too many fusty academic readings and connects with a wide audience because they sense the fiery commitment to what she’s doing. She has cast herself in a room full of purple anthropo-alien forms and it’s so bonkers, she should be celebrated as a national hero. Fucking amazing.
See what else is on show
Gordon Glyn-Jones lives in London, makes and writes about art.
Kayaking & canoeing motions recorded thru Light Painting http://www.thisiscolossal.com/2014/12/water-light-painting … http://www.pinterest.com/slowottawa/propel-yourself/ … @EdwardTufte
Bonhams London is to sell a painting by South Africa’s leading artist, Irma Stern, titled ‘Arab in Black’ and valued at £700,000 to £1m (R20m), at its South African Sale this afternoon. The portrait of a young Arab man was once used to barter for the life of Nelson Mandela in the Treason Trial in the ‘50s.
The ANC Freedom Charter was officially adopted on 26 June 1955 at a Congress of the People in Kliptown. The meeting was broken up by a police and a total of 156 people were arrested, including Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu, Albert Luthuli and Oliver Tambo. They were charged with high treason for which the punishment was death.
The Treason Trial Defence Fund was founded to help pay the legal costs of the defence and to support their families. Cash donations were welcomed, as were donations of paintings, works of art and books that were then auctioned for the cause. Irma Stern herself donated a work to the cause, although she declined to make further donations, for fear of attracting attention from the authorities.
At that time ‘Arab in Black’ belonged to Betty Suzman the daughter of Max Sonnenberg MP, founder of Woolworths and her sister-in-law was Helen Suzman, the anti-apartheid activist. As the trial dragged on and funds ran low, the Suzmans generously donated ‘Arab in Black’ to one of the Johannesburg auctions.
Hannah O’Leary, Bonhams Head of South African Art, adds: “The buyer of the painting then immigrated to the UK in the 1970s and left the painting to a relative in their will. Imagine my surprise when I saw this masterpiece being used as a kitchen notice board in a modest flat in London, largely covered with letters, postcards and bills! It was a hugely exciting find, even before the amazing story of its provenance started to unravel”.
In 2011 Bonhams sold a similar Stern painting titled ‘Arab Priest’ for over £3m, setting a new world record for South Africa’s leading artist. Important though that painting was - a drumroll announcing to the world that modern and contemporary South African art had truly arrived on the word stage - this image ‘Arab in Black’ by Stern is in an entirely different category. It is nothing less than a key part of the fabric of South African history.
I have never been to an auction of this stature before and whilst it means donning a suit and feeling a bit poor for a while I'm still pretty excited. So many Bond movies, so many episodes of 'Flog It' under my belt.
Published with permission from Mareike Pietzsch, The South African Newspaper in the UK
Recently, Giles Peppiatt of Bonhams auctioneers spoke about the explosion of value in South African art to a group of 22 arts journalists at the Irma Stern Museum in February.
“What we continue to see is a new ‘Scramble for Africa’. It’s no longer for land, gold or diamonds but for art. I say this advisedly as I stand here at the Irma Stern Museum, almost in the shadow of Cecil John Rhodes, who led another scramble for Africa. The scramble I am talking about, is a rather different kind of tussle, one that is making art a viable occupation for artists across Africa, bringing hope to communities in many of its 54 nations. It is a new development taking the message of African ingenuity to the wider world – a rather different message the kind the world has grown used to hearing from Africa. It has been our very great privilege to play a small part in taking that message to the wider art market.”
Bonhams decision to start specialist SA art sales in Europe back in 2006 paid off almost immediately with the first sale totalling £1.5 million. Soon the auctions were grossing £10 million and were achieving numerous world records. Currently it holds world records for all major South African artists.
How have Bonhams done this? How is it that works by Irma Stern which sold for figures around £100,000 ten years ago now go for millions? How is it that Tretchikoff who was seen as a mark of kitsch taste is now selling for hundreds of thousands, and Gerard Sekoto who fled the country to die in poverty in Paris has work that reach auction prices of hundreds of thousands of pounds.
To understand the answer one has to remember that South African art had not really been seen in London or on the international market before, and certainly had not been marketed in such a prestigious manner with all the attendant events, such as reception and dinners associated with auctions. Bonhams found that international collectors were delighted to view these works and even more delighted to purchase the best examples for what they perceived to reasonable prices.
In international terms the best examples of South African art were very good value. So when the auction house offered this work to those with deeper pockets they found an enthusiastic response Once it became common knowledge that the highest prices were being paid in London, many collectors around the world and in South Africa were keen to take advantage of this price differential.
The fact is that modern and contemporary African art is today one of the hottest properties on the art block. Africa is the new China when it comes to art. When the Tate, the Smithsonian and other similar institutions start openly acquiring Contemporary African Art, then one knows that something strange and wonderful has occurred and that real change is in the air.
The Romans (in fact it was Pliny the Elder) had a phrase for this: “Ex Africa semper aliquid novi”. It means, there is always something new out of Africa. Today that new thing is art.
The scramble is to acquire this art and the educated view in the capitals of the world is that South African and African Art is a bull market, with one’s investment liable to return a handsome profit in the years ahead. That is the brutal truth, but it is only half the story.
Picasso, and many of his contemporary artists saw in Africa the wellsprings of their own creative drive. They acknowledged Africa’s creative genius and their work pays homage and tribute to it. Now the African artists are demanding for themselves part of that acclaim and also a proportion of the kind of sums earned by those master artists whose names are household words.
So how has this step-change in attitudes to African and South African art specifically occurred?
Bonhams is the only international auction house to have had the vision to hold specialist South African Art and Contemporary Africa Art sales in Europe. The auction house specialists fly some 50,000 miles round the world each year to the South African diaspora abroad as well as to South Africa itself. Their travels start in London and moves to New York, Toronto, Vancouver, San Francisco, Sydney, Melbourne, Tel Aviv and back to London. Then down to Johannesburg, Durban, Port Elizabeth and Cape Town – even to Bloemfontein. Bonhams has put South African art on the international map by redrawing that map in air miles.
They’ve also spent a great deal of money advertising and have turned their sales into networking opportunities for South Africa’s financial houses, banks and insurance companies and for the universities. They have used sales as a backdrop to entertain clients and alumni at private dinners and large social events. They have used the compliment of South African art and its power to attract interest, as a means of reaching audiences they wish to connect with. Their boardroom regularly hosts dinners with household names from South Africa talking art, talking politics, talking connections, and talking business.
They have focused their hugely successful international PR machine, led by South African, Julian Roup, on getting the message out about South African art sales and the increasing number of world records achieved at Bonhams.
So in short, they have worked like hell. Besides all the travel and the hoopla round the sales they have worked with the great museums of the world whose academics and curators help them to establish values. And crucially they have made it their business to know all the collectors, and then they have knocked on their door.
Peppiatt concludes: “Today that door swings open much more readily that it once did. People want sale valuations; they want insurance valuations; they want to buy; they want to sell; they want advice on starting collections. And they want to be part of the track record of success in maximizing value that we have added to South African art.”
Giles Peppiatt, Director of the South African Art Department of Bonhams, the international fine art auction house, is possibly the person most responsible for creating an international market for South African art. Bonhams hold the only specialist auctions of South African art outside of Africa.
SOME OF BONHAMS WORLD RECORDS:Irma Stern (South African, 1894-1966)
Sold for £3,044,000 (R34,270,000)
Gerard Sekoto (South African, 1913-1993)
‘Yellow Houses, District Six’
Sold for £602,400 (R10,542,000)
Jacob Hendrik Pierneef (South African, 1886-1957)
‘The Baobab Tree’
Sold for £826,400 (R14,462,000)
Alexis Preller (South African, 1911-1975)
‘The Garden of Eden’
Sold for £748,000 (R13,090,000)
Vladimir Griegorovich Tretchikoff (South African, 1913-2006) ‘Chinese Girl’
Sold for £982,050 (R17,185,875)
Jean Welz, (South African, 1900-1975)
‘The Three Graces’
Sold £132,000 (R2,320,000)
Ben Enwonwu, M.B.E (Nigerian, 1917-1994)
‘The Mirror sculptures’
Sold for £361,250 (R6,321,875)
El Anatsui (Ghanaian, born 1944)
‘New World Map’
Sold for £541,250 (R9,471,875)
Gordon Glyn-Jones lives and makes art in London.