It was Africa's biggest moment in Venice
. Ever. For the first time, there was an African pavilion, located in the Arsenale, After a call for proposals for this pavilion, the nod had gone to Fernando Alvim and Simon Njami to curate a show drawn largely from the Sindika Dokolo Contemporary African Collection of Art. That show was called 'Checklist Luanda Pop'. There was a strong representation of African artists on director Robert Storr's keynote exhibition, 'Think with the sense, feel with the mind: art in the present tense.' Ghanain artist El Anatsui's extraordinary metal fabric hangings draped not only the front of the Palazzo Fortuny but spaces within the Arsenale. And Malian photographer Malick Sidibe won the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement.
And did Africa rise to the occasion? Read Bettina Malcomess' review of the Biennale, and her interview with the key figures involved in the African pavilion, which lays bare some of the setbacks and tensions which accompanied the show on its way to Venice. The good news is, Alvim secured a promise from the Biennale organisation that the African pavilion would become a permanent part of the event.
The art congnoscenti was not in Venice for long - rushing to Art Basel on the 13th, and documenta 12 three days later, where the planned opening party in the park was washed out by rain. The long awaited Documenta, under the directorship of Roger Buergel and Ruth Noack, was a much more serious affair than Venice. Ruth Sacks was there to report back for ArtThrob. See the Documenta section.
Closer to home, 'Africa Remix' the travelling megashow of African art (also curated mainly by Simon Njami) opened at the Johannesburg Art Gallery on June 24, with 17 of the participating artists there to celebrate the event. It is interesting to note that the arrival of the show is only three months short of the 10 year anniversary of the opening of the 2nd Johannesburg Biennale. We have had to wait 10 years for a show of this depth and dimension. It's been a very long wait.
Look for the review of 'Africa Remix' in next month's ArtThrob.
NEXT UPDATE: Sunday, August 5
The offbeat Museum of Contemporary Art presents 'Hell Yeah' featuring many of the most provocative artists in town. In an unusual move, Iziko SANG is showing contemporary Irish art in 'Singing the Real'. Goodman Gallery Cape presents 'Social Fabric' and solo exhibitions from Tracy Payne, Nicholas Hales and Gabi Ngcobo liven up the mix.
NATIONAL ARTS FESTIVAL GRAHAMSTOWN
All eyes will be focused on the debut of Standard Bank Young Artist of the Year Pieter Hugo's touring exhibition at this year's National Arts Festival. But keep eyes (and ears) peeled for some of the other delights in store - like James Webb's audio/visual installations which will be hidden in the most unexpected of places around town.
Although she is known primarily for her painting, Bronwen Findlay has produced a series of prints with the Artist Proof Studio, where she will show them this month. Afronova presents 'The Winter Show', which includes amongst other things work by Chéri Samba and Chicken Man. Capetonian Carine Zaayman presents 'The secret adventures of Lady Ann Barnard and Other Diversions' at Fried Contemporary. Christine Dixie holds a retrospective at the Standard Bank Gallery.
Important works from the Pelmama Pernament Art Collection, in which prominent South African artists of the 60s, 70s and 80s are represented in considerable depth has been donated to the Oliewenhuis Art Museum. Some of these works are to be presented in an exhibition opening on July 9.
Some major exhibitions which opened last month, continue through July in Durban. Meanwhile, 'Breathing Spaces: Environmental Portraits of Durban's Industrial South', which opens at the Durban Art Gallery, finds photographer Jenny Gordon and Marijke du Toit of the Historical Studies department drawing attention to the pollution and health hazards created by the oil refineries in the South Durban suburbs. 'Start: The Nivea Art Award' opens at the KZNSA Gallery and the African Art Centre hosts 'Animal Tales'.
Philip Miller's 'REwind', a cantata for voice, tape and testimony has its US premier in Brooklyn on July 6. Elsewhere in the city, William Kentridge is part of 'Repicturing the Past/Picturing the Present' at the Museum of Modern Art. In Europe, the 52nd Venice Biennale and Documenta 12 are in full swing.
In Monique Pelser's 'Identity Parade' the artist is photographed by her subjects in whose working clothes and environment she situates herself. Tavish McIntosh argues that 'where initially the "types" represented operate as a point of entry into the work, it is only through considering the artist as surrogate for the gaze that we come to the crux of the exhibition... Documentary photography's implicit ability to index reality is actually fragile and Pelser revels in divulging its illusory nature'.
Michael Smith reviews Andrew Tshabangu's 'City in Transition', a body of photographic work from the last three years. Tshabangu's street level observation which reveals 'how the economic reality of Johannesburg subverts old orders and systems of value, not heroically but in an organic manner', earns him his place among the most important artists currently imaging the inner city. Smith also visits 'Family Ties', Churchill Madikida's Standard Bank Young Artist exhibition. He leaves a little unconvinced, feeling that either the artist, or the curators, fail to capitalise on the intersections between the separate bodies of work which make up the show. In spite of this, the installation type work that comprises 'Like Father like Son?', Smith feels, is very successful. In addition to these reviews, Smith also interviews Alexandra Ross, recipient of the 2007 Brait - Everard Read Art Award, about her show which is to run at the gallery during July.
Carol Brown visits Bronwyn Lace's show which she has produced during the DUT (Durban University of Technology) Artist-in-Residence programme in which she has been taking part. In a complex, apparently fragile installation, Lace combines an examination of beauty with observations on the human mind.
Although Bettina Malcomess was slightly hampered by a sprained ankle, she still got around the Venice Biennale, at which she was repeatedly drawn to the African Pavilion, 'caught up in the flow of its artists, curators and the other South Africans attending'. With the establshment of this as a permanent part of the Biennale, the award of the Golden Lion to Malick Sidibe and the inclusion on main shows of many African artists, we are, she declares, 'no longer on the outside looking in.' Bettina also contributes a conversation she had about Africa's role in the Biennale primarily with Fernanado Alvim, but also with Simon Njami, Sindika Dokolo, Olu Oguibe and N'gone Fall.
Ruth Sacks visited Documenta 12 in Kassel, where despite what she perceives as a lack of irony in a few places, 'there is some thoughtful fun and a hint of a few good jokes'. More importantly though, she recommends that in order to engage the more serious issues raised here, one should 'walk slowly, get a good night's sleep and do some serious thinking'.
Artist and ArtThrob copy editor Paul Edmunds wins the 2007 Tollman Award. Tavish McIntosh reports on the launch of the Interpolar Transnational Art Science Constellation's 2007/2008 projects. In Johannesburg, curator Simon Njami and artists from 'Africa Remix' hosts a series of panel discussions. From Durban we hear artSPACE durban's Karen Bradtke reporting on the opening of her new gallery artSPACE berlin. That city's Bean Bag Bohemia café, bar and art gallery face closure. Mikhael Subotzky has been nominated to join Magnum photographic agency, a tremendous accolade for the young photographer.
A month in the life of Ed Young is not nearly as relaxing as you'd think. Read his diary and find out more...
Mixed media artist Dan Halter, selected for this years Videobrasil, is this month's choice.
Ed Young visits 'Universes in Universe', a website which showcases 'Visual arts of Africa, Asia, Latin America within the context of international art processes'.
We feature Avant Car Guard, a young collective who, facing ignominy here, recently launched a publication at the the Pure Project, New York.
A public sculpture competition is launched in Cape Town, while the AVA here invites nominations for its 2007 Committee. Zayd Minty presents a talk on a project in the Cameroon at Iziko SANG. Best Art Practices International award for young curators invites entries, while the Getty Research Institute calls for applications.
We won the Spanish lottery and were offered a lot of Viagra at cost price.
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ArtThrob congratulates Editions artist Mikhael Subotzky on not only being elected to the world famous photo agency Magnum, but also being named winner of the City of Perpignan Young Photographer Award. His striking print from the original series which brought him to public notice, 'Die Vier Hoeke', photographed within the walls of Pollsmoor Prison, is still available online.
In the meantime, the new print from William Kentridge is expected to arrive from master printmakers The Artists Press this week.
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