Archive: Issue No. 74, October 2003

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Brett Kebble Art Awards

Lineup of the winners at the Brett Kebble Art Awards

Brett Kebble Art Awards

Doreen Southwood and Brett Kebble

David Goldblatt

David Goldblatt
Couple at The Wilds
Black and white photograph
16 x 20 inches


On at L/B's:
Mongrel BLACKLASH 1998


Monday, September 29

An early morning lecture at Michaelis. Subject: International art biennales, how they function, and their importance in the art world. Luckily I have an old news clip of the opening of the Sydney Biennale in 1992, featuring artists like Rachel Whiteread and others which gives a very good idea of the hype and excitement surrounding such an opening.

Tuesday, September 30

The big night. The opening of the much-discussed Brett Kebble Art Awards at the new International Convention Centre on Cape Town's foreshore. As usual, before any opening on which I have work, I am experiencing a feeling which has not gone away over the years. I suppose it could best be described as a mixture of anticipation and queasiness, of feeling exposed, of wishing to explain the work, whatever it is, and simultaneously wanting to remain silent and invisible. We arrive, and I glance at my work out of the corner of my eye. With everyone in the vast foyer, the sound of talk is so loud that one cannot hear the soundtrack on my piece at all. Eventually find one of the installation people to turn the sound up.

Dinner for 600 is served in a vast upstairs room. The artwork known as Bruce Gordon and I are seated up at the front of the room, near the stage. The other six people at our table have flown in from the Bahamas that morning to spend four days looking at wine and property in the Western Cape, so I assume they are connections of Brett Kebble. They are very charming and all that, but I am sorry there are no kindred art spirits at the table with whom to gossip about the evening's proceedings. The food is excellent, no mean feat with so many guests.

The symbol of the BKAA is a peacock feather, presumably considered suitable because peacocks wander round the lawns of Monterey, the Bishopscourt estate which is the headquarters of the organisation - and of course, peacocks have lots of lovely colours in their tail feathers. Projected graphics of swirling peacock feathers decorate the back of the hall, and appear again on an extremely kitschy powerpoint presentation about the enduring value of art, a presentation which I can see is causing suppressed mirth at a nearby table. Other entertainment includes Muse, the four woman string quartet, all dressed up by Hip Hop for the evening, followed by a ballroom dancing demonstration. The evening's emcee is TV personality Khanyi Dhlomo, also dressed bv Hip Hop. As with the Oscars, a glass table holds trophies of about Oscar height in what I would describe as a South African seventies design.

Five merit awards are announced - this is unanticipated. I find that I have won one of them. Slight feeling of disappointment that I did not win my category, New Media, though I had thought beforehand that this prize might well go to Nathaniel Stern, for his edgy interactive piece 'Stuttering', and there are some pieces I have not even seen yet. Still, a merit award and R5 000 is gratifying, and very much better than receiving nothing. Stern also wins a Merit Award. As the main prizes begin to be announced, it is clear that the winners from other parts of the country have been flown in, since they are all here. I find some of the prizewinners surprising. Doesn't one always? But I think Doreen Southwood, who I thought would win the sculpture category, is a deserving winner of the R100 000 overall prize. Brett Kebble hands her the main award, and follows this with a speech before being himself handed the large version of the award which up to now has dominated the stage. He's definitely the focus of the event. What will he do with his sculpture, I wonder?

The evening ends with Yvonne Chaka Chaka singing, everyone dancing, and an afterparty in an upstairs bar at the Arabella Sheraton.

Wednesday, October 1

Linda Givon, Penny Siopis and her son, Alexander, all in town for last night's BKAA ceremony, go round to the Michael Stevenson Gallery for a preview of veteran photographer David Goldblatt's new show which opens tonight. Again, the gallery, with its classic white spaces (their only bad point is the low ceilings) serves the work well. I look forward to spending some time with it, but now we are off to lunch, at swish Cape Town restaurant Beluga. One Cosmopolitan cocktail later, and I know not much work is going to get done for the rest of the afternoon.

Thursday, October 2

After that cocktail, and the after effects of the BKAA awards the night before, didn't make David's opening last night, but don't feel too bad because he is conducting a walkabout at lunch. A large (for a walkabout) crowd of more than 30 interested people have turned up. In his quiet way, David is extremely articulate about his work and methodology, explaining how for the series Particulars, black and white closeups of details of people's bodies as they relax in parks. "Did you ever pay any of these people for allowing you to photograph them?" asks someone. "Never", says David emphatically, blushing as he admits that his refusal to pay one woman for being photographed led to her suggesting an alternative: a trip with her to Swaziland.

Friday, October 3

Remember those requests for banking details taped to the back of all the certificates issued by the Arts & Culture Trust at the awards ceremony, winners and runnersup alike leading to false hopes of financial rewards for the runners up? This email arrived today:

Dear All

A sincere apology for the banking form placed on the back of your certificates - it was an error made by an assistant who was obviously frazzled on the day! I have been trying to find a way to apologise, but find myself at a loss.

I hope that there has not been too much confusion or inconvenience caused.


Wendeen Lieberman
Chief Executive

Wednesday, October 8

Three openings tonight - German graphic artist Otto Dix at the National Gallery, Lisa Grobler at Joao Ferreira and at L/B's Lounge above Jo'burg Bar, '', billed by curator Tom Mulcaire of the ICA as "an exhibition of critical games by artists", to be open to the public until November 1 from Tuesday to Saturday from 3 8 p.m. Decide on going to '', taking along my good friends from New York, Jo Bacal and Annie Newman.

At l/B's. people are making things happen on the screens of the monitors which glow on the curved surfaces of the room. I look around for some information on the games, but can't find any. Have to admit that I am not a computer games player anyway, limiting my access to a quick hand of Freecell (motto: dedicated to decreasing productivity in the workplace) when answering emails becomes too boring. Still, I'm sure there's a big audience out there who will soon be climbing the stairs to L/B's.