Six weeks ago, I had to beg time off from writing this column as the 'Beyond the Gallery: Art in Public Spaces' conference I was directing loomed ahead, and horribly soon after that, a solo exhibition at the Goodman Gallery. So now that I can breathe again...
Monday April 8
All the work for the show at the Goodman is loaded on to the Sun Couriers truck. As the doors close and I watch the truck trundle up the road, I cross my fingers and hope it will arrive in Johannesburg safely undamaged and unhijacked. Promised delivery date: Wednesday morning.
This evening there is an opening at the National Gallery - German artist Manfred Mueller Preuss has run a one-week workshop at the Community Arts Project entitled 'From Representational Painting to Abstraction'. Twelve graduates took part, and in the morning I was part of a panel which selected three who showed most mastery of the workshop as winners. Funded by Pro Helvetia, Trish Lovemore, Dathini Mzayiya and Boyce Magandela will go to Austria and Switzerland for a month in July to take part in further workshops. It is good to see these young students receiving an opportunity to travel and learn, and their huge excitement at being selected is infectious.
Wednesday April 10
The Goodman Gallery phones to find out where the work is. They want to start hanging. By the end of the day, many phone calls later, Sun Couriers acknowledge that yes, it is somewhere in Johannesburg, but on which of their 190 trucks they have no idea.
Thursday April 11
I fly up to Johannesburg and arrive at the Goodman at lunchtime to discover the work has preceded me by five minutes. I will be showing 'From the Inside', a series of double portrait/wall images of people who are HIV positive alongside a message they have written in a public space. There are 12 in the series, each is 2m by 90cm, so the work is not difficult to hang. Not like putting up a site-specific installation, which can take days. I have been worried that there was not enough work to fill the Goodman Gallery, but actually the generous amount of space available for each image looks just fine. In the rear of the gallery, a viewing room has been constructed to show Can't Forget, Can't Remember, the interactive projection piece around two confrontations which took place during the TRC hearings.
I am staying with artist Jo Ractliffe in Bez Valley, and we celebrate my arrival in Joeys by going out to supper at Braam Kruger's Kitchen Boy in Chinatown restaurant in Cyrildene. Jo and I agree that the fish dishes we order have to be photographed.
Friday April 12
Nightmare. After weeks of thought, I have had the prints for the show framed a new way - reverse mounted onto Perspex, with a backing mounted onto the back of the print, and wooden supports mounted on to that. Andreas Gursky does his like that sometimes. The effect is very clean and minimal: just the print under Perspex. Now the gallery phones me to say that one of the prints has slid down the wall - the wooden support had come away - and the corner had cracked.
I have an appointment to meet Belgian curator Fabienne Dumont with Linda Givon at the gallery at 2pm anyway - we are to discuss a show I will have at the Centre for Contemporary Art in Brussels next year. I rush over to inspect the damage. It will have to be redone, but it's too late for that now. A note is put up to say it has been damaged in transport. Over the next few days, the gallery people and I will take down all the prints and reglue all the wooden supports at the back to make them perfectly secure.
Saturday April 13
Most artists I know loathe their own openings, and I am no exception. There is something very awkward and painful about watching people studying whatever it is you have put up and wondering whether to rush forward and explain all about it or to disappear through the door forever. However, I am very happy that so many people have come - artist colleagues William Kentridge, Penny Siopis, Colin Richards, Clive van den Berg, Minnette Vari; the Royal Netherlands Embassy people - Margriet Leemhuis and Mercia van Wijk; some of the Wits students who helped me with the project - Colleen Alborough, Brenton Maart and Vicki Cruywagen - curator Alan Crump, who puts a reserved sign on one piece for the Johannesburg Art Gallery, and most important, two of the subjects of the portraits, Judy Seidman and Johannes Bukhali.
Linda Givon and all the gallery people, Neil, David, Kirsty and Sharon, have been great, and everything runs smoothly.
Sunday April 14
Linda and I go wafting off in Linda's cool open topped sports car (number plate: ART GP) to visit the newly opened Apartheid Museum. A handsome building indeed, low, with an ominous concreted block rising from one side. I'm not mad about the cutout figures adhered to the mirrored panels on a long walk from the entrance to the starting point at the top of the museum. The bright colours and the contemporary clothes seem out of place. But there is a wealth of important documentary material inside, displayed in a series of theatres and monitors, and I think it should be a mandatory stop for any visitor. (See Review)
Monday April 15
Out to Pretoria to visit Margriet Leemhuis at the Royal Netherlands Embassy. They will help fund an important Artthrob project - the development of a CD with the first five years of art material - all the reviews, news and pictures which have become part of our recent art history. We are indeed grateful for this support.
A call from Cape Town artist Doreen Southwood who is setting up a hugely ambitious installation in the Spark Gallery in Orchards - can I go and give some advice about the installation. The Spark Gallery is fairly new, in an old electrical substation, and Doreen is showing with Johannesburg artist Antoinette Murdoch.
It becomes clear that there is certainly not room for everything - a snowstorm projection will have to be set aside for a later date. The staircase to the stars which is the main element of Doreen's installation is well in progress and stretches from floor to ceiling. Then there are two other pieces - and the rest of the space will be filled with Antoinette Murdoch's hearts woven from pink tape measures, a dress constructed from paper dress patterns, and other witty pieces addressing life, domesticity, passion and turning 30.