Monday, January 13
Phone rings. "Sue! This is Fernando Alvim!" It's always a pleasure to see the man, whether in his adopted home of Brussels or anywhere else in the world. The creative dynamo has been in his native Angola for the past few weeks, and tells me of a large and beautiful building in Luanda, near the sea, which has been designated by the state to be a contemporary art museum. Money has been set aside to build up a collection of contemporary art, from Africa, with 35% to be from Angola and 65% from the rest of the continent. Now that peace has come to Angola, how good it is to hear that contemporary art is being taken seriously, and its value to the nation acknowledged in this way. It is still hardly credible to me that here in South Africa, in this whole country, we do not have a single museum devoted purely to contemporary art.
Talking to Fernando reminds me of another Luandan project in which he is involved, which he, in fact, conceptualised over a number of years. It is called Mbutu Muande, visionary nation. The 'visionaries' are those Angolans who have been mutilated in the wars - their handicap has increased their sensory perceptions. For this project, Fernando persuaded the Angolan state to give money for 20 small wooden houses to be constructed. In 2002, 20 'guests' representing Luandan civil society - a diplomat, doctor, etc were invited to carry out a specific action on his/her birthday. This 'action' consisted of handing over a key to one of the houses to the first amputee they meet on that day. The house will belong to the amputee for ever, money from a trust fund will sustain him, and contact will be maintained between the guest and the visionary to the mutual benefit and increased understanding of both.
Tuesday, January 14
Talk to Linda Givon of the Goodman Gallery on the phone. We last saw each other at William Kentridge's opening at the SANG, at the end of November. The very next morning, Linda, who had worked all week hanging the show, was leaving at the crack of dawn for Miami, and Art Basel in Miami. Scheduled to open for the first time in 2001, the event was cancelled last year , post 9/11. Linda tells me that this time it was one of the best, most beautiful and well organised art fairs in which she had ever participated, and while many dealers stalls received little attention, the Goodman Gallery stall did phenomenally well, selling work in depth by all the artists on show, including William, Zwelethu Mthethwa and Tracey Rose.
SANG curator Emma Bedford has invited us for evening drinks on Clifton Beach, a favourite meeting place in Cape Town on these long summer evenings. By 5 p.m. it is so hot in my studio, I am wondering whether to dash home for my swimsuit - but looking over to Lions Head, I see the cold grey clouds spilling over from the direction of the beach, and I get a phone call to say the venue has been changed to someone's house. Thembinkosi Goniwe is there, back from the States where he is studying, and before he can say a word I get in first. "Sorry I didn't answer your email, Thembi!" Thembinkosi was the subject of an artbio in ArtThrob a few months ago, and wrote a sharp note saying I had quoted him out of context. "I'm glad you brought it up." he replies. I try to explain how hard it is to keep up with all my emails, and Thembi assures me that I am forgiven, and that for South African artists away from home, ArtThrob is an invaluable lifeline to what is going on here.
Thursday, January 16
This morning's email brings an invitation from BHP Billiton co-curator Natasha Fuller to pay a quick visit to Australia. Billiton has an exhibition entitled "Intersections" on at the RMIT Gallery in Melbourne until March 2003. The exhibition features works from the BHP Billiton Art Collection (one of the best of the corporate collections) from Ezrom Legae's "Chicken Series" through to Robin Rhode's "He's got Game". Three pieces of mine from the eighties, screenprinted/etched portraits of Winnie Mandela, Miriam Makeba and Mamphela Ramphele are on the show. " There will be a walkabout and a panel discussion by artists on Thursday 20 and Friday 21 February. Johannes Phokela will be going from London, and Natasha is hoping Robin Rhode will come.
Hmmm. I am working hard on my catalogue for the Brussels show, and Public Eye's latest art party, YDESIRE, to take place at the Castle will be on Saturday 22nd and I'd hate to miss that. But an online check of the Qantas site shows I can get back just in time, flying into Jo'burg at 3.30 that afternoon, and there is always email if catalogue copy needs to be checked. I think I'll go!
Friday, January 17
Had the most wonderful surprise on Wednesday night, when my daughter Amanda and her little son Sebastian walked in the door when I thought they were in New York. They are here for a week, and having worked on the catalogue through Christmas and New Year, I am going to take this time off to play.