What motivates curators and art buyers to purchase artworks? This simple question is the premise for Gallery Choice, a monthly feature that aims to reveal who (public museums/corporate collections) is buying what (artist), and why.
Institution: Johannesburg Art Gallery
Artist: Colbert Mashile (1972- )
Title: Afterwards, Everything is Burned, The Shield and The Shadow and Man and his Priest, all 2002
Medium: Monotype Lithoprints
Dimensions: 69.5 x 49.5 cm (two vertical; one horizontal)
Motivation for purchase: "Colbert Mashile is a young Johannesburg-based artist who explores the psychical impact of traditional circumcision and initiation rituals on initiates. He also explores the often-problematic narratives of collective cultural determinants within these communities. The Johannesburg Art Gallery has identified the acquisition of Mashile's work for its permanent collection as important for a number of reasons.
The Gallery has re-stated its commitment to advancing its contemporary collections through, in this instance, the purchase of works by artists who, although fairly new in their overall career path, demonstrate an awareness of both the critical debates that the art-world, and the public-at-large, is currently engaged with (culturally-loaded usage of language, the 'status' of particular cultural norms); as well as artists who reveal a clear grasp of the complexities and slippages of various productive languages that are available in our present moment.
Mashile's work references various elements of more traditional art-production techniques (print-making and painting). But, within this production, he isolates the personal narrative as the loudest voice within a cacophony of layers of meaning and reference. Mashile's work is also a valuable addition to the JAG permanent collection for its referencing of a genre of production that is growing rapidly amongst local producers: a language of challenge (against previous traditions of 'other voices' of the documentary/classificatory impulse) that claims agency for the participants themselves, as opposed to using the participants as simply manifest entities towards capturing generalised representations of conditions or events.
In the acquisition of works such as Mashile's, the Gallery affirms it commitment not only to collecting younger artists (with a proven creative track-record), but also towards a collection of artworks in which content may be seen as relevant to the fluid, evolving body that constitutes our 'public'." David Brodie, Curator: Contemporary Collections