artthrob artthrob

Archive: Issue No. 48, August 2001

X
Go to the current edition for SA art News, Reviews & Listings.
Cape Gauteng KZN International REVIEWS NEWS ARTBIO WEBSITES PROJECT EXCHANGE FEEDBACK ARCHIVE SEARCH


MONTHLY ISSUE NO. 48 AUGUST 2001



28.08.01 New directions at the National Arts Council
21.08.01 South African artist for São Paulo named
21.08.01 African-American artist auctions his blackness online
16.08.01 Nominees announced for DaimlerChrysler Award 2002
07.08.01 Moshekwa Langa wins 2001 FNB Vita Art Prize
07.08.01 South Africans for World Wide Video Fest in Amsterdam
07.08.01 Southern Exposure project launched
07.08.01 Local artist awarded postgraduate opportunity in Nantes
31.07.01 William Kentridge tapestry unveiled at JSE
31.07.01 Sasol New Signatures winners announced
31.07.01 Sue Williamson's New York diary continued
24.07.01 Medal of Excellence for HIV/AIDS Billboards Portfolio
18.07.01 Absa Atelier Award winners announced





New directions at the National Arts Council

As the major source of funding for visual artists and their projects, a message from the National Arts Council, signed by CEO Doreen Nteta and posted on the NAC website at http://www.nac.org.za on August 22, deserves careful attention. Subjects covered included the membership of a committee appointed to advise on visual arts events, which countries are favoured by the NAC for sponsorship, and an analysis of the performance of the NAC over the past four years since its inception in 1997. Apparently the board feels that in funding a large number of projects it has "spread itself too thin" and in April this year articulated the need to develop a business plan in order to move the NAC from a "mainly funding body to a development oriented organisation".

In considering the need to change, the NAC concluded that: it has created great expectations; needs to move away from being primarily a funding body; has been mainly driven by demand; has supported many worthy projects and has spread itself too thin. "No matter how large the funds, the demand will always be greater than the provision."

For artists who already struggle endlessly to obtain funding for their projects, this switch has an ominous ring. Grassroots development is of course critically needed, but not at the expense of the country's beleaguered artists. The performing artists of the country have recently banded together to form a national lobbying organisation to protect their interests, PANSA, and it would seem that it is time for the visual artists to follow a similar route.

Other points covered:

- The NAC informs us that the term of the present advisory panels ends in October this year. Advertisements will be placed in national papers, presumably calling for new nominees. "It is important that artists are aware of this process, and that panelists are as demographically representative as possible."

- A committee was appointed in April 2001 to advise on major international festivals and visual arts events. The committee is composed of Kiren Thathiah (chairperson), Marilyn Martin, David Koloane, Evelyn Senna, Ruphus Mathibe and Victor Julius. It has met twice and made recommendations. An agreement was made with the Department of Arts, Culture, Science and Technology that DACST would fund all related travel costs while the NAC pays artists' fees and honoraria.

A committee comprising representatives from DACST and the NAC will develop a business plan and criteria for participation in international events for the next six years. "This plan will consider, inter alia, cost, regional spread, biennials, festivals etc, giving precedence to broad government objectives and priorities and the impact on as wide a spectrum of the arts as possible."

The committee will receive invitations for the participation of the country in specific events; commission or receive applications for participation from South African individuals and organisations. Further, the committee will evaluate and consider the merits of participating in the event; the merits of applications for participation; representativity, giving specific attention to previously marginalised artists; recommend funding and participation to council; approve and appoint a curator or curatorial team; liaise with other stakeholders; facilitate the fundraising.

- Certain countries will enjoy priority: Africa, Australia, South America, New Zealand, Asia, SADC and new regional imperatives.

Looking for more local support, the NAC notes that "while central government can provide some funding, at least 50% should originate from local government and the corporate sector. The responsibility lies on all strata of government and the community."

The document concludes with what seems like something of a retraction of earlier statements: "Future funding should, while taking into account cross-sectoral developmental issues and national priorities, not lose sight of the needs of the art itself and the artist, and the NAC should continue, therefore, to fund along arts discipline lines.

"Arts funding should not depend or be justified on their economic viability only, but through the fact that they have an intrinsic value, which is cultural and artistic. In future the NAC will strengthen its internal systems and structures, assess the impact of its support, and improve dialogue with people working in the arts.

"In doing this, it will not lose sight of the central priority which is to give the best possible service in the development of the arts."


Pitso Chinzima

Pitso Chinzima
Ambigious Self-Portrait (detail), 1996
Welded metal



taxi

A taxi waits for customers at Cape Town station


South African artist for São Paulo named

The South African selection for the 25th São Paulo Biennial, which will open on March 23 2002 and continue until June 2, is Pitso Chinzima, assistant exhibitions officer at the Johannesburg Art Gallery. The proposer and curator of Chinzima's work is the JAG's Prince Dube, and the organisation of the nominations was facilitated through the National Arts Council.

The theme of the biennial, under co-ordinator Peter Tjabbes, is 'Metropolitan Iconographies', and apart from Latin American artists, will include work from eight cities around the world. Chinzima's proposal, which focuses on the country's vibrant taxi culture, sounds totally appropriate for the urban theme of the São Paulo Biennial.

"Modern culture in South Africa is a result of the synthesis of multi-cultures or world cultures," writes Dube in his curatorial statement. "What would make a contemporary work of art from South Africa African? The theme of the biennial demands that the artist should produce work that will demonstrate how urban energy influences today's artists. At the same time it demands that Northern and Southern Hemispheres be brought together. It intends to build bridges between non-European cultures along a South-South track. This means that each participating country needs to be original.

"How can an artist from a metropolitan city such as Johannesburg be original? Johannesburg seems to be bringing sufficient elements and materials from which an artist could draw from when producing a true representative work of art. Borrowing major characteristics of African art and integrating it with elements of contemporary global artistic production produces a fine and original African contemporary art. Pitso achieved just that. It is for these reasons I selected him for this biennial.

"Pitso chose to use the most significant player in the South African cities, minibus taxis. Johannesburg as a mega city owes its existence to the people who work it. Without these people there is no city. These taxis transport more than 70% of commuters as compared to less than 30% by trains and buses."

Chinzima's installation at the biennial will incorporate four minibus taxis. These vehicles will be fitted with two video projectors and two slide projectors which will show images of events and activities that affect the industry and cultural events around the city. Three vehicles will be purchased directly from the streets, and the fourth - an accident wreck - from the scrapyard. A powerful sound system will also be part of the installation. Dube's proposal description gives an interesting insight into the world of taxis:

"Vehicle A will be purchased from Umlazi, Durban. This vehicle is sought because of its uniqueness within the industry. It is famous because of all the additional gadgets. It is fitted with a sound system, which includes high watts speakers, CD shuttle and high watts amplifiers. The backseat is adjusted to accommodate all the gadgets. The entire back is covered with speakers from the floor to the roof. Opening the boot leads to the music system and there is no more space for anything else. A video of cultural events and people and life in the city will be projected from this vehicle. Five music CDs will be placed in the shuttle. Viewers will be used to represent taxi commuters. They will be allowed to enter and playback music.

"Vehicle B will be a wreck of a former taxi involved in an accident. Slides of newspaper articles covering taxi stories will be projected from this vehicle. Vehicle C will be purchased from Soweto, a working taxi, which has been taken good care of by the owner and the driver. Unlike vehicle A, it has no added gadgets. It will project slides of taxi violence, funerals, taxi maintenance and queues. Images will be projected over vehicle A onto the wall. Silhouettes of people viewing and interaction with the exhibit will form part of the projection. Recorded voices of commuters will be played in this vehicle.

"Vehicle D will be an unroadworthy vehicle still operating as a taxi, to be purchased from Vosloorus township. A video from this vehicle will show political events that involve the industry."

Chinzima is a fine arts graduate of Witwatersrand Univiersity, and was part of the Colin Richards-curated show 'Graft' on the 2nd Johannesburg Biennale in the South African National Gallery in 1997. He has lectured in sculpture at Funda Community College in Soweto and between 1998 and 2000 served as an advisory board member at the Rembrandt Van Rijn Gallery in Newtown.


Keith Townsend Obadike

Keith Townsend Obadike


African-American artist auctions his blackness online

In a trenchant and witty conceptual work commenting on race in the US (and further afield), African-American artist Keith Townsend Obadike auctioned his blackness on ebay.com last week. Scheduled to run from August 8-18, the auction was closed by eBay after four days due to the "inappropriateness" of the item. In this time Obadike's blackness received 12 bids, peaking at $152.50.

Obadike, a 28-year-old artist, composer and MFA student in sound design at the Yale School of Drama, explores issues of race, sexuality and community online through his "Black.net.art" actions. Obadike listed his blackness for sale on eBay (the internet's most successful marketplace) under Collectibles/Culture/Black Americana - where it appeared alongside old Amos 'n Andy records, slave tags, "lucky black voodoo dolls" and other items that speak volumes about the construction of black identity. Obadike offered the buyer a certificate of authenticity, while warning that "Mr Obadike's Blackness has been used primarily in the United States and its functionality outside of the US cannot be guaranteed".

Obadike drives his point home with the lightest of touches in his description of this "heirloom", listing a series of benefits and warnings. On the plus side, "This Blackness may be used for creating black art", "gaining access to exclusive, 'high risk' neighbourhoods " and "accessing some affirmative action benefits" (the latter with the qualifier, "Limited time offer. May already be prohibited in some areas"). Under warnings, Obadike writes: "1. The Seller does not recommend that this Blackness be used during legal proceedings of any sort. 2. The Seller does not recommend that this Blackness be used while seeking employment. 3. The Seller does not recommend that this Blackness be used in the process of making or selling 'serious' art. 4. The Seller does not recommend that this Blackness be used while shopping or writing a personal check", and so on.

The fact that Obadike's blackness sold for a proverbial song, and that the work was prematurely closed by eBay, is of course entirely - if unintentionally - appropriate. The intervention continues to make its impact felt after the drop of the hammer and can be viewed online at http://Obadike.tripod.com/ebay.html.


Magwa Langa

Langa Magwa, one of the nominees
Photo: Southern Exposure


Nominees announced for DaimlerChrysler Award 2002

Officially announced this week, the nominees (and their nominators) for the lucrative DaimlerChrysler Award 2002 are:

  • Jane Alexander, Cape Town, nominated by Fumio Nanjo, Tokyo
  • Paul du Toit, Cape Town, nominated by Fanyana Shiburi, DaimlerChrysler South Africa
  • Langa Magwa, Durban, nominated by Marilyn Martin, Cape Town
  • Albert Munyai, Venda, nominated by David Koloane, Johannesburg
  • Joachim Schönfeldt, Johannesburg, nominated by Uli Kostenbader, DaimlerChrysler Germany
  • Claudette Schreuders, Pretoria, nominated by Frieda Hattingh, Unisa Pretoria
  • Moses Seleko, Katlehong, nominated by Bonghi Dhlomo-Mautloa, Johannesburg
  • Minnette Vári, Johannesburg, nominated by Harald Szeemann, Switzerland

The award this year is specifically for sculpture, although quite how this should be interpreted is unclear. Minnette Vári, for example, is better known for video work - will the nominees be free to work in whatever media they choose? What is known is that video portraits of the nominees have been produced, and a jury meeting will be held at the end of October in Pretoria to decide on a winner.

The first DaimlerChrysler award - worth more than R300 000 and resulting in significant international exposure - went to Kay Hassan in 1998. Hassan's prize included cash of R35 000, an exhibition at the Wurttembergischer Kunstverein in Stuttgart which also toured to major venues in South Africa, and a substantial catalogue to accompany the show. The second award, in 2000, was given in the field of contemporary jazz and went to Themba Mkhize. The prize was established "to further the careers of innovative young contemporary artists, and raise the profile of South African art both at home and abroad".


Moshekwa Langa

Moshekwa Langa


Moshekwa Langa

Moshekwa Langa
Home Movies: Where do I begin, 2001
Still from video


Moshekwa Langa

Moshekwa Langa
Home Movies: Where do I begin, 2001
Still from video

Moshekwa Langa wins 2001 FNB Vita Art Prize

Moshekwa Langa was announced the winner of the FNB Vita Art Prize for 2001 at the opening of the exhibition at the NSA Gallery in Durban on Tuesday night. Langa scooped the R35 000 prize for his video installation work titled Home Movies: Where do I begin. Currently living and studying in Amsterdam, Langa was nominated for his exhibition 'Another Time, Another Place' held at the Goodman Gallery last year. He was previously nominated for the Vita in 1998, losing out that year to Steven Cohen. Other past winners are Terry Kurgan (2000) and Jo Ractliffe (1999).

Born in Potgietersrus, Langa matriculated from the Max Stibbe Waldorf School Project in Pretoria. His first solo exhibition was held at the Rembrandt van Rijn Gallery in 1995. Langa has subsequently exhibited in cities including London, Frankfurt, Rotterdam, Geneva and Athens, and last month held a solo show at Galerie Ghislaine Hussenot in Paris (see International listings and Langa's Artbio in the ArtThrob archives). His most recent exhibition in South Africa was 'Mountains of My Youth' at the Goodman Gallery earlier this year.

The other nominees for this year's FNB Vita Art Prize, all of whom received initial commissioning fees of R12 000 to produce new work for the show, were Kim Lieberman, Robin Rhode, Kathryn Smith, Clive van den Berg and Jan van der Merwe.

The founding principles of the FNB Vita Art Prize are to promote contemporary art in South Africa and provoke interest and debate around new artistic developments. Remodelled in 1998 along the lines of Britain's Turner Prize, the competition invites nominations from the public; the finalists and eventual winner are chosen by a panel of experts, this year comprising Willem Boshoff, Julia Charlton, Natasha Fuller, Virginia MacKenny, Nkosinathi Khanyile and Pat Mautloa.

As part of an FNB Vita expansion programme, the exhibition is now being pitched as national and has moved from Johannesburg for the first time this year, showing at the NSA Gallery in Durban.

     See Reviews

Until September 8

NSA Gallery, 166 Bulwer Road, Glenwood
Tel: 202 3686
Fax: 202 3744
Email: iartnsa@mweb.co.za
Website: www.nsagallery.co.za
Hours: Tues - Fri 10am - 5pm, Sat 10am - 4pm, Sun 11am - 3pm


Retreks

Gregg Smith
The Lovephones - True stories of love from Cape Town

Published in 'ReTREKS:unSUNg City'


South Africans for World Wide Video Festival in Amsterdam

An event first staged in Johannesburg in September last year has intrigued festival director Tom van Vliet to such an extent that a restaging in Amsterdam will play a starring role at the opening events of the 19th World Wide Video Festival there in October this year.

Conceived by artist Rodney Place, 'ReTREKS:unSUNg City', described by the artist as an "urban opera", took place one evening in late September in downtown Johannesburg. A motley procession which included a brass band of ex-street kids and souped-up tow trucks led the way to an abandoned car park in the inner city. Here, on eight floors, performance art and specially commissioned video works by some of the country's best known artists flickered on the inner walls of the garage. Working in an extreme wide-angle format appropriate to the venue, Brett Murray, Jane Alexander, Robyn Orlin, Stephen Hobbs, William Kentridge and Rodney Place showed work. (For more on 'ReTREKS', see ArtThrob's news story.)

Van Vliet has found an appropriate car park in Amsterdam, and all of the video works will be shown as part of the festival, which runs from October 10 to November 11. It will kick off with "a four-day long extravaganza of opening events, focusing on live presentations, 'meet the artist' and premiere screenings, which will echo on over the following weekends when, at various locations, a series of special events will be held".

Also invited to the festival with a new work still in development is Cape Town artist Matthew Hindley, who will present a highly innovative and technologically advanced piece entitled Allow me to observe. For this piece, Hindley will attach a camera and a microphone to the forehead of his subjects, so that the images coming from the camera and projected onto a screen will be exactly what they will be seeing. Remember Inside John Malkovich? Hindley's twist is that the subjects will also be wired to an excitement meter which will measure their response to a moment of excitement. Apparently there is a 0.2 second lapse from hearing to response on the meter, which is normally used in psychotherapy. (Hindley is still seeking sponsorship for his piece, and any company who would like to be linked to something this hot can email him at matthew_hindley@yahoo.com.) Sue Williamson's interactive CD-Rom based on two cases at the TRC, Can't forget, can't remember, designed by Tracy Gander, will also be screened.

The World Wide Video Festival follows an international trend in opening its doors to an increasingly large number of participants from around the world. The catalogue essay last year opened with the statement, "The Western dominance in media is over." Many new countries were included last time, and Van Vliet made a special trip to South Africa earlier this year to meet artists. First to show on one of the WWVF events were Malcolm Payne and William Kentridge, who exhibited at Amsterdam's Stedelijk Museum on the 16th Festival in 1998; Payne showed again last year, but this is the first time that Van Vliet has visited the country personally to make his selections.


Diagonal Street

Diagonal Street, Johannesburg
Pictures from the Southern Exposure website


Diagonal Street

'Enoch with oversized pot' at Vulamehlo Arts Centre in Mpumalanga


John Edgar

New Zealand artist John Edgar with his series of stone sculptures


Southern Exposure project launched
by Kathryn Smith

Imagine you were to meet an Australian gallerist/cultural worker who asked the following questions while researching how white artists in "postcolonial" countries deal with the issue of indigenous craft:

  • Do indigenous materials have a relevance to contemporary craft practice?
  • In what way can urban artists use the craft skills of rural women?
  • How can white artists use the designs of people who are native to their region?
  • What design best suits the environment of the south?
  • What role does Australia play in the minds of those living in South Africa and New Zealand?
Taken one by one, these questions are nothing new. Put them together as a research package and the foundations for a website and you're rekindling interest in questions some are not ready to answer (well, answer honestly), or questions which need to avoid a textbook PC (politically correct as well as postcolonial) response.

The said gallerist/cultural worker is Kevin Murray, a recent visitor to South Africa. Murray is artistic director at Craft Victoria in Melbourne and recently embarked on "a brief survey of craft and related practices across the bottom of the world (minus the Chileans)". As he comments: "The purpose of travel was to see if there was any potential for dialogue between the three countries. Most roads out of Australia lead north, and there is relatively little opportunity - apart from sport - to develop cultural exchange with those on our own latitudes. In maintaining a horizontal conversational thread, I found there were some powerful voices to be heard and distinctive work to be seen. I hope some of the recorded interviews will find their way onto radio this year."

Despite a site with some obvious spelling errors and a slightly simplistic tone (this could be a result of the brevity of the contextual information - he does provide links to extended texts and uses ArtThrob as a primary local source of information), the site is a good starting point, and fascinating in relation to how we are produced from an Australian point of view. It's not exactly news that there is an enormous South African community "down under" (are we not geographically further "down" than Australia?). Southern Exposure is aimed at them as much as at Australians and New Zealanders - Murray's journeys to known and lesser-known parts of these two countries provide interesting counterpoints to his South African trip. The site consists of a series of web pages with images (and captions) from condensed travels through Hobart, Dunedin, Wellington, Wanganui, Auckland, Johannesburg, Mpumalanga, Cape Town and Durban. The travel was supported by the Craft Leadership Fund of the Australia Council and Murray's "patient colleagues" at Craft Victoria.

Murray laments that his time only allowed him to meet a handful of artists in South Africa, but heard of many others whom he intends to contact - and in turn get to contact others along the Southern Exposure lines of latitude. All of this is really subtext for interactivity - he is looking for input, suggestions, links, you name it: "There are some parts, such as the Tri-Nations table, that could do with input. It would be interesting to gather perspectives from the South Africans and New Zealanders who now call Australia home. Once it has gathered enough interest, and the company of those travelling along parallel paths, then it seems possible for a southern focus to look for a home in a main event. Such an event promises to add something new to the dense cultural networks that have evolved with the Asia-Pacific and Europe - an event that gives meaning to the peculiar condition of living 'down under', at the bottom of the world."

Visit Southern Exposure online at www.craftvic.asn.au/south or email Kevin Murray on kmurray@craftvic.asn.au.


Merryn Singer

Merryn Singer
Vlakplaas
Blood and water on paper


Local artist awarded postgraduate opportunity in Nantes
by Kathryn Smith

Young Johannesburg-based artist Merryn Singer, who recently won a merit prize at the Absa Atelier Art Award, has been offered a place in a prestigious postgraduate programme at the School of Visual Art, Nantes (aka Erban).

Of the 10 artists, researchers and curators awarded a place, Singer is the only South African. The course is directed and co-ordinated by curators and critics Clementine Deliss and Robert Fleck and successful candidates are awarded an eight-month stay in the historical city, a monthly stipend and a free studio - along with guest sessions with some of the contemporary art world's most interesting and influential figures.

Having heard about the course via an email newsgroup, Singer applied and was somewhat surprised when she was invited for an interview. As the school does not pay for this preliminary trip, she decided to invest and take the chance. Come October, she will be ensconced in a studio apartment in what was once a medieval cloister.

Anyone who has a recent degree in fine art, architecture, design, art history or cultural studies, or who has a track record as an independent artist, critic or researcher, is eligible to apply. The school provides professional equipment for media including sound, video, photography, painting and sculpture. Theoretical and practical seminars are directed by Deliss (curator and director of the programme) and Fleck (critic and director of Erban), alongside Anne Fremy (artist), Pierre Giquel (poet, art critic) and Philippe Lepeut (artist). Participants are invited to suggest visiting critics/artists whom they feel would benefit their practice, and opportunities to travel, exhibit and publish are all included.

Along with Singer, other participants hail from Sofia, Antwerp, Los Angeles, Lyon, Paris, Cologne, Glasgow, London, and Nantes. The course topic this cycle is the notion of "criminal information". Hopefully Singer will keep us posted on what this intrepid group of researchers unearth.

If you are interested in finding out about applying to the course, contact the secretary of the Ecole des Beaux Arts at fatima.nouri@mairie-nantes.fr.


William Kentridge

William Kentridge
Office Love, 2001
Mohair tapestry
350 x 460 cm


William Kentridge tapestry unveiled at JSE

A mohair tapestry designed by William Kentridge and woven under the guidance of Marguerite Stephens was unveiled at the JSE Securities Exchange in Johannesburg in July. The latest addition to the corporate art collection, the tapestry was seen by the JSE as forming "part of the JSE's commitment to support South African art, recognising the important parallels between business and art".

Office Love, as the work is titled, is based on a map of planned development of Johannesburg (which indeed proceeded very much according to plan), dating from 1890 - just four years after the discovery of gold. According to Kentridge's assistant, Anne McIlleron, the artist made colour copies from the map, cut and collaged these, and then collaged other hybrid office-type objects in black over the map.

At the Marguerite Stephens Weaving Studio, Kentridge's design was enlarged many times to reach the scale of the finished tapestry (3.5 by 4.6 metres). Stephens then interpreted the colours of the map, papers and pencils into wool colours, and "mapped" the design onto the loom to create a template for the weavers - Stephens herself, Margaret Zulu, June Xaba, Virginia Mzimba and Zanele Zulu.

The work was commissioned for the JSE by information and communications technology company PQ Africa. Said PQ Africa CEO Peter Watt, "With the JSE opening up to the people of South Africa, it is only fitting to see the people of South Africa represented on the walls of the JSE."

Office Love is on view to the public in the JSE foyer during normal office hours.


Thembi Goniwe

Thembi Goniwe
Face Value (detail)
inkjet print


Sasol New Signatures winners announced

Video swept the boards at Sasol New Signatures in Pretoria last week, taking all three of the competition's awards. The top prize of R10 000 was awarded to Theresa Collins for her video entitled Harmony. Collins' work, described as "oblique and ambiguous", explores music, movement and light as butterflies, doves and cars do a digital dance around two young people seated at a table. The competition, open to artists who have not yet held a solo exhibition, was judged by Erna Bodenstein, André Naudé, Jo Ractliffe, Simon Stone and Michael Teffo, under the chairmanship of Helen Weldrick.

Two further prizes were awarded by individual judges. Frank Ledimo gave his award to Johan Thom's Thula Thula Baba: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. A computer shows a video animation of a man silently bending and shouting, next to wrapped and altered objects. Ledimo found that this work pushed boundaries, transforming ordinary objects such as a shopping trolley and computer into disturbing metaphors.

MTN Art Institute director Ronel Kellner chose My Father's Room by Bronwyn Hanger. A camera pans a domestic interior and garden, showing the ordinary objects and spaces of someone's life, accompanied by lively laughter and chatter. As the voices fall silent, life drains away, evoking a sense of loss reinforced by the use of black-and-white film.

The People's Choice Prize, based on votes cast by the public for their favourite work, will be awarded on August 15 at 6pm at the Pretoria Art Museum, following a guided tour of the exhibition by Barbara Ann Kinghorn. To book phone Nandi Hilliard or Pieter van Heerden at (012) 346 3100.

     See Reviews


New York Guggenheim

Swathes of aluminium mesh in the foyer of the New York Guggenheim


New York Guggenheim

Frank Gehry
Guggenheim Museum
New York, New York, 1988
Current design model
scale 1:100m


New York Guggenheim

Nationale Nederlanden Building, Prague, Czech Republic, 1992-96


Sue Williamson's New York diary continued

See July ArtThrob for the first three instalments

Wednesday July 25

My time in New York is coming to an end, and this will be my last art outing. The day is perfect, and we plan to hit the Delacorte Theatre on Central Park West well before noon, figuring this will be soon enough to get two of the free tickets that will be handed out at 1pm for that night's outdoor production of Chekhov's The Seagull (cast: Meryl Streep, John Goodman, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Kevin Kline; director: Mike Nichols). An unfortunate stuff-up in changing subways makes us nearly an hour later than planned, and although the line is not that long and we are moving up quite nicely, the "house full" announcement ends our hopefulness. Across the park, then, for the Guggenheim Museum as a consolation.

The Guggenheim is mounting a full-blown retrospective of its architect of choice: Frank Gehry, designer of the titanium-clad Guggenheim Bilbao, certainly one of the most flamboyant contemporary structures in the world. The New York Guggenheim, of course, was designed by his world famous predecessor, Frank Lloyd Wright, and has a unique structure for a museum, with a spiraling walkway which leads one from the downstairs foyer in one continually curving path to the top of the museum. It is a structure which is perfect for a linear exploration of a subject - in this case, the rise and rise of Frank Gehry. For this exhibition, Gehry has set his own bold stamp on the idiosyncratic interior of the Guggenheim - from the glass cupola at the top of the building, drapes of aluminum mesh hang down to foyer level, lending a silvery glow to the space, and successfully softening the sharp lines of Lloyd Wright's curved ramps.

Upwards, then. It is interesting to note that even in his very early models of domestic architecture, Gehry was employing the kind of deconstruction of space and mixture of materials which reached their zenith at Bilbao. Drawings, videos and models uncover the methods by which Gehry and his team reach solutions. A building in Prague will take the classic lines of the windows of the building next to it and morph them apparently unevenly (though the buildings always make internal sense) on curves. This is a man who loves unorthodox materials. Torn paper, plastic, wire mesh of all kinds, ribbons - it is all used in small scale in order to suggest ways of reaching a final solution. So how does one build a building like the Guggenheim Bilbao? It seems one plans one's blocks of space first. Gehry uses blocks of wood in different colours to delineate different types of space - exhibition, office, etc - then stacks them. Once this has been established, ripped paper, endlessly experimented with, gives form to the exterior. Wall notes tell us that recent developments in computer aided drawing have given Gehry a new freedom in getting his ideas to work.

Gehry's latest enterprise - and the model for this was one of the highlights of the show - is a new branch of the Guggenheim for New York itself, to be placed at the water's edge of Manhattan, just on the downtown side of the Brooklyn Bridge. The new structure, with its flying titanium ribboned panels, will massively change the classic skyline of Manhattan as seen from the Brooklyn side - a source of considerable controversy. There is little doubt, however, that in itself the new museum will be absolutely stunning, linked to the water with decks, and set with glass embrasures through which large-scale sculptures will be lit and visible from some distance away. Personally, I can't wait to see it.


Mduduzi Xakaza

Mduduzi Xakaza
Artwork for HIV/Aids Billboards Porfolio

Click on images to see billboards in situ


Gabisile Nkosi

Gabisile Nkosi
Artwork for HIV/Aids Billboards Porfolio


Medal d'Excellence for HIV/AIDS Billboards Portfolio

The Duban-based HIV/AIDS Billboards Portfolio project has just scored a coup at the Fête d'Excellence in Geneva, winning a Medal d'Excellence for its innovative approach to creating public awareness of HIV/AIDS. The Fête d'Excellence recognises excellence in a range of fields including the environment, sport, youth activities, edutainment and disability. HIV/AIDS Billboards Portfolio project leader Jan Jordaan will accept the award along with Gabi Nkosi, one of the artists who produced an image for the portfolio, in Geneva on August 3. They join an illustrious group of recipients, including Sidney Poitier and Muhammed Ali, who will receive awards for their Spirit of Service, the World Deaf Games for their contribution to disability and the Harlem Globetrotters for their contribution to sports.

The HIV/AIDS Billboards Portfolio is an initiative currently run by the projects committee of the Artists for Human Rights Trust (AHRT). The AHRT has been involved in human rights arts projects since 1988. Recent projects include the Images for Human Rights Print Portfolio (1996) and the Universal Declaration of Human Right International Print Portfolio (1999). The current project for HIV/AIDS is a two-pronged initiative - while producing a print portfolio for museums, public institutions and corporate buyers it also attempts to reach a broader public through the arena of billboards under the heading "Break the Silence". These have been set up in KwaMashu, Umlazi and Claremont in Durban and on Harrow Road in Johannesburg. As funds and sponsorship come in more billboards go up around the country. The project features the work of, among others, David Kolane, Chris Diedericks, Diane Victor, Stembiso Sibisi and Dominic Thorburn, as well as artists from Uganda, Thailand, Bolivia and Ghana.

More information on AHRT projects can be found at www.ahr.org.za.


Stefanus Rademeyer

Stefanus Rademeyer
Mimetic Reconstructions
Mixed media


Absa Atelier Award winners announced

Gauteng artist Stefanus Rademeyer will be the next young South African to take up residence at the Cité Internationale des Arts in Paris, it was announced at the Absa Gallery in downtown Johannesburg on Wednesday night. Rademeyer, 25, won the 2001 Absa Atelier Art Award with Mimetic Reconstructions, a mixed media work combining glass, steel and text. He walks away with R60 000 in cash, a round trip to Paris and six months accommodation at the Cité.

Four runners up each received merit prizes of R10 000 - they are Daniel Hirschmann, Marco Cianfanelli and Merryn Singer, all of Gauteng, and Brent Meistre of the Eastern Cape. Joni Brenner (Gauteng), Frederick Eksteen (Gauteng), Collen Maswanganyi (Northern Province), Henk Serfontein (Gauteng) and Doreen Southwood (Western Cape) were awarded certificates acknowledging their places in the top 10.

Competition sponsors Absa purchased works by two of the top 10 artists for the group's corporate art collection, paying R16 000 for a wooden sculpture by Maswanganyi titled Helicopter Rescuing Mozambican Mother, and R8 500 for Cianfanelli's merit award winning Head II.

The panel of judges who chose the overall winners comprised artist Vusimuzi Khumalo; Karel Nel, professor in the Department of Fine Arts at Wits University; art critic Cobus van Bosch; Conrad Theys, president of the South African National Association for the Visual Arts; and Ian Redelinghuys, head of the Department of Fine and Applied Arts at Technikon Pretoria.

The Absa Atelier show is on view to the public until August 17.

     See Reviews

Absa Gallery, Absa Towers North, 161 Main Street, Johannesburg
Tel: (011) 350 4588
Email: juliemc@absa.co.za
Hours: Mon - Fri 9.30am - 3.30pm

Cape Gauteng KZN International REVIEWS NEWS ARTBIO WEBSITES PROJECT EXCHANGE FEEDBACK ARCHIVE SEARCH