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Editor: Sophie Perryer
10 Years 100 Artists provides a multifaceted view of contemporary South African art in 2004 – 10 years after the country’s first democratic elections.
A beautiful and substantial coffee-table book, it showcases the work of 100 top artists, ranging from emerging talents to those who have already received international acclaim for their work, as chosen by 15 leading South African critics and curators.
The book is rich in images of the artists’ recent works, and includes texts on each artist.
The book also features serious discussion by the 15 curators about the “state of the art” today, as informed by and shaped during the past 10 years of South Africa’s emergence into the global art arena – represented in a timeline of the most significant exhibitions of this period.
Edited by Sophie Perryer, Artists selected and text written by:
Emma Bedford, David Brodie, Thembinkosi Goniwe, Khwezi Gule, Sharlene Khan, David Koloane, Andrew Lamprecht, Moleleki Frank Ledimo, Virginia MacKennyu, Sipho Mdanda, Tumelo Mosaka, Tracy Murinik, Colin Richards, Kathryn Smith, Sue Williamson.
Mail & Guardian (Shaun de Waal)
Independent on Saturday:
Pretoria News Interval (Miranthe Staden-Garbett):
Mail & Guardian Supplement:
The Citizen (Dieter Fourie):
Style (Sandy Welch):
This book was born from a desire to emulate the gorgeous gloss of a plethora of international survey-type publications that emerged to coin-cide with the new millennium. The celebration of a decade of democracy in South Africa in 2004 seemed to present the perfect opportunity to embark on a survey of our own about the current state of visual arts in this country.
From early on in the process of teasing out what form this survey should take, however, it became clear that while "gloss" was perhaps a factor to be contemplated in relation to paper quality, it was not going to be easily or even desirably achieved in its implications of a superficially neat and tidily packaged product.
South Africa 10 years after the advent of democracy has barely begun to resolve the inequities of the legacy of apartheid. In many ways it is a mess. Still wracked with pain and poverty - but equally bursting with potential. This has been both a sapping force and the motivating energy behind this book: the challenge of encompassing the diversity and contradictions that continue to define contemporary South Africa and its visual art.
Every step of the way required interrogation of motivation and means, for myself and every one of the 15 writers/curators I invited to participate in what turned out to be a fraught and at times hazardous process: one in which the result is the astonishingly material (even glossy) object now in your hands.
"Ten" of course was the seductive binary number with which it all started: one or zero, in or out, yes or no; in a single word, choice - a concept at the heart of democracy. But the writers of this book and myself were faced with choices that proved extraordinarily difficult to make.
Mine involved selecting the writers, initially drawing from those I had worked with as editor of Art South Africa magazine and before that ArtThrob, then expanding this selection to include those recommended by other writers. It’s impossible to gloss over the fact that race was an issue here - one that continued to raise its head through the selection of artists and the subsequent email discussion that took place between the curators.
And in this all the tensions and inadequacies of South African life are reflected. It irks me to say that race (or gender) was an issue - too many whites, too few blacks; far, far too few black women - when each of the writers brings individual strengths and attributes that stand on their own without the reductive regard of race.
But other issues were brought to bear on the process of selection too: geographic - writers tended to be based in Johannesburg or Cape Town; and levels of experience. A selection comprising only established writers would presuppose the privileging of already well-known artists - those whose names appear with regularity throughout the timeline of key exhibitions and events from 1994 to 2004 at the back of this book.
It seemed worth trading unevenness of approach and standards of writing for fresh perspectives. Above all, it became clear that this book could not simply reflect the status quo of the past decade. It had to at least make an attempt to reassess and disrupt our assumptions about what was most important or remarkable about South African art at this particular juncture.
The biographies of the 15 writers/curators appear on the pages following this introduction, in which they speak of their reasons for making their own selections. They range from Sue Williamson, author of the seminal books Resistance Art in South Africa and (with Ashraf Jamal) Art in South Africa:
The Future Present, and David Koloane, veteran of the Federated Union of Black Arts and co-founder of the important Thupelo Workshop programme - both immensely productive and influential artists and writers - to new but already active and engaged players such as Khwezi Gule and Sharlene Khan. The other voices are no less worthy of note:
Emma Bedford, David Brodie, Thembinkosi Goniwe, Andrew Lamprecht, Moleleki Frank Ledimo, Virginia MacKenny, Sipho Mdanda, Tumelo Mosaka, Tracy Murinik, Colin Richards and Kathryn Smith.
The process that these 15 writers agreed to embark on went as follows: each drew up a list of 15 "top" artists (in order of preference) that they would like to see included in a book focusing on "the cutting edge of contemporary art production today, as informed by and shaped during the past 10 years of South Africa’s emergence into the global art arena"; I then supervised a process of allocation of six or seven artists per writer which avoided duplication.
This was followed by an email discussion between the writers about the "state of the art" and their motivations for their selections. Most writers were keen to emphasise that the resulting list did not claim to represent "the top 100 artists in South Africa", but rather a selection that reflected multiple viewpoints and priorities, providing a broader view of contemporary production than seen before.
The demographics of the selections were a source of much interest to all involved: the white curators battled it out for high-profile black artists such as Tracey Rose, Moshekwa Langa, Berni Searle and Thando Mama, while the black writers, who among them selected only one white artist, often chose to give opportunity to emerging artists or those they felt had previously been neglected.
Inevitably there were exclusions, important artists not overlooked so much as subordinated to the need to limit inclusions to 100. A list of those most regretfully excluded would vary from writer to writer as much as did their selections.
The email discussion took place over about six weeks, and ran to literally hundreds of pages. Initial plans to reproduce it in this book were put aside due to this length and the often disjointed flow of the discussion. The most intense point of engagement was between Colin Richards and Thembinkosi Goniwe. The exchange proved frustrating as well as immensely challenging to all, reflecting widely differing assumptions about the playing field from which we as a group were operating, generally along racial lines.
To simply describe the course of the discussion would in all likelihood be to misrepresent the particular voices in the conversation. A few edited extracts follow, not necessarily following on coherently from one another but intended to sketch out some of the terrain covered, starting with the question that kicked off the discussion. [...]
INTRODUCTION / SOPHIE PERRYER WRITERS EMMA BEDFORD / DAVID BRODIE / THEMBINKOSI GONIWE / KHWEZI GULE / SHARLENE KHAN / DAVID KOLOANE / ANDREW LAMPRECHT / MOLELEKI FRANK LEDIMO / VIRGINIA MACKENNY / SIPHO MDANDA / TUMELO MOSAKA / TRACY MURINIK / COLIN RICHARDS / KATHRYN SMITH / SUE WILLIAMSON ARTISTS ALAN ALBOROUGH / JANE ALEXANDER / SIEMON ALLEN / BRIDGET BAKER / BONGI BENGU / KIM BERMAN / WILLIE BESTER / WILLEM BOSHOFF / CONRAD BOTES / ANDRIES BOTHA / WIM BOTHA / KEVIN BRAND / CANDICE BREITZ / LISA BRICE / JEAN BRUNDRIT / PiTSO CHINZIMA / PETER CLARKE / STEVEN COHEN / MARLENE DUMAS / ZAMAXOLO DUNYWA / PAUL EDMUNDS / GARTH ERASMUS / ANGELA FERREIRA / ROOKEYA GARDEE / KENDELL GEERS / DAVID GOLDBLATT / THEMBINKOSI GONIWE / FRANCES GOODMAN / KAY HASSAN / MATTHEW HINDLEY / SIPHO HLATI / NICHOLAS HLOBO / STEPHEN HOBBS / ROBERT HODGINS / FANIE JASON / SFISO KA MKAME / ALISON KEARNEY / WILLIAM KENTRIDGE / SHARLENE KHAN / NKOSINATHI KHANYILE / DAVID KOLOANE / DOROTHEE KREUTZFELDT / TERRY KURGAN / MOSHEKWA LANGA / BRENTON MAART / NORIA MABASA / CHURCHILL MADIKIDA / LANGA MAGWA / ZAMAN! MAKHANYA / MUSTAFA MALUKA / THANDO MAMA / SENZENI MARASELA / ZEN MARIE / COLBERT MASHILE / KAGISO PAT MAUTLOA / SAMSON MNISI / SANTU MOFOKENG / SAMSON MUDZUNGA / THOMAS MULCAIRE / BRETT MURRAY / CHRISTIAN NERF / GABISILE NGCOBO / SAM NHLENGETHWA / GABISILE NKOSI / VUYISA NYAMENDE / SOPHIE PETERS / JOHANNES PHOKELA / THABISO PHOKOMPE / CAMERON PLATTER / THEMBEKA QANGULE / JO RACTLIFFE / ROBIN RHODE / COLIN RICHARDS / TRACEY ROSE / RODERICK SAULS / CLAUDETTE SCHREUDERS / PETER SCHUTZ / BERN! SEARLE / USHA SEEJARIM / DURANT SIHLALI / PENNY SIOPIS / DINKIES SITHOLE / KATHRYN SMITH / MGCINENI SOBOPHA / DOREEN SOUTHWOOD / GREG STREAK / GUY TILLIM / THE TRINITY SESSION / ANDREW TSHABANGU / CLIVE VAN DEN BERG / HENTIE VAN DER MERWE / MINNETTE VARI / NONTISKELELO VELEKO / DIANE VICTOR / JEREMY WAFER / ERNESTINE WHITE / SUE WILLIAMSON / NHLANHLA XABA / ED YOUNG / SANDILE ZULU YEARS TIMELINE ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS