by Sue Williamson (March, 2007)
One of the most highly respected curators and writers in the field of contemporary African art, Emma Bedford has for the past 25 years dedicated her professional energies to conceiving and bringing into being a long series of contemporary art exhibitions at the Iziko South African National Gallery in Cape Town. Various leading international artists are known to have refused to have their work shown at the gallery unless the curation was in the hands of Bedford.
Her influence has extended far beyond the SANG, however, and she has also curated or helped curate a number of major exhibitions in other parts of the world, such as the first exhibition organized by the Forum for African Arts at the 49th Venice Biennale in 2001, something of a critical triumph and �Tremor� at the Palais de Beaux-Arts de Charleroi in Belgium.
As a writer, Bedford edited the substantial catalogue for the 2004 exhibition, �A Decade of Democracy� and was one of the contributing authors to 10 Years 100 Artists: Art in a Democratic South Africa (2004) (Bell Roberts Publishing).
As a board member of Public Eye and an active member of the Visual Arts Network of South Africa (VANSA) since its inception in 2002, Bedford has served on the national and regional executives, demonstrating her commitment to developing and supporting broad based arts initiatives.
�We find ourselves at a moment in history where world attention is focused on global issues as never before. South Africans with their particular history and experience are able to engage in these debates with confidence and authority. Increasingly South African artists are winning major international awards and accolades for their work and finding themselves at the forefront of international developments.
�Galleries and curators can play a significant role in mediating between artists and opportunities to ensure that local artists are able to benefit from this sustained interest. The Goodman Gallery has for decades played a major role in ensuring that artists participate in local and international events at the highest level. Goodman Gallery Cape will continue this tradition to ensure that local audiences are exposed to the most exciting art exhibitions and events and that artists from South Africa continue to enjoy a high profile internationally.�
�Emma is undoubtedly one of the finest of the handful of top curators in South Africa and has a formidable international reputation. It is well known that she cares greatly for the development of younger artists and has in many cases been the first curator to bring the work of many of our most significant young artists to the attention of the international world.� Andrew Lamprecht, Michaelis School of Art, University of Cape Town.
�What wonderful news Emma - Goodman couldn�t find a better equipped individual to get the gallery started in Cape Town.� Dr Annie Coombes, Director of Graduate Studies in the School of History of Art, Film and Visual Media, Birkbeck College, University of London.
In a shock announcement late last year, Bedford disclosed that she had accepted an invitation from gallerist Linda Givon to take on the role of director at the new Goodman Gallery Cape, scheduled to open on March 22. She is joined by curator, Storm Janse van Rensburg.
The new gallery, located in an expansive and lofty industrial space in the up and coming area of Woodstock, has been redesigned by award-winning South African architect Jeremy Rose. Givon, whose belief in the strength of South African art stretches back 40 years, is opening the gallery to partner her Johannesburg operation, and give her artists a showcase in Cape Town.
The vision for the new gallery is not only to have solo shows by established and emerging artists but to introduce local audiences to artists from other parts of the continent and further afield. Shows curated around specific themes will also be part of the programme, as well as guest curated projects.
In 2005 Bedford was the only South African invited to the International Curatorial Workshop held to mark the opening of the radically redesigned Museum of Modern Art in New York.
Twenty curators were invited to present their perspectives on the role of museums and contemporary art in their respective areas and were afforded opportunities to meet key staff, tour exhibitions and behind the scenes and engage in lively debates with major movers and shakers in the contemporary art field.
�A Decade of Democracy�, mounted at Iziko South African National Gallery in 2004, was the largest, most comprehensive and most representative exhibition of contemporary South African art ever held under one roof, presenting an astonishing visual record of the hopes and aspirations, the fears and concerns of ordinary South Africans in an extraordinary decade of transformation.
�Fresh�, a three year programme running between 2000 and 2003 consisted of residencies and exhibitions which resulted in a series of monographs for seven emerging artists Senzeni Marasela, Berni Searle, Robin Rhode, Tracey Rose, Usha Seejarim, Dorothee Kreutzveldt and Moshekwa Langa.
The funding for the programme was provided by Marlene Dumas who
generously donated a substantial cash award by the Prince Bernhard Cultural Fund for the purpose. The award was given for Dumas to donate to a project of her choice, and she phoned Bedford and said, �Do you want to spend my money? � Thus was �Fresh� born. For all of the artists, the �Fresh� monograph was their first publication.
Today, Rhode is one of the artists who credits �Fresh� with launching his international career. Rose�s The Kiss, staged in the National Gallery during her �Fresh� residency, has become an iconic image of post-apartheid and global rapprochement.
To launch the Goodman Gallery Cape in Fairweather House, 176 Sir Lowry Road, Woodstock, a two part exhibition entitled �Lift Off� will feature most of the artists associated with the Goodman Gallery. Commemorating the first �Lift Off exhibition that launched the new Goodman Gallery premises in Johannesburg a decade ago in 1997, it will feature most of the artists who showed on that exhibition.
�Lift Off Part I� at Goodman Gallery Cape with artists Willie Bester, Norman Catherine, Kendell Geers, David Goldblatt, Robert Hodgins, William Kentridge, Kagiso Pat Mautloa, Sam Nhlengethwa, Penny Siopis and Sue Williamson.
�Lift Off Part II�, running from 5 May to 26 May 2007 includes amongst others Deborah Bell, Lisa Brice, Frances Goodman, Moshekwa Langa, Brett Murray, Cecil Skotnes, Mikhael Subotsky, Tracey Rose, Clive van der Berg, Lolo Veleko and Jeremy Wafer.
AND AFTER THAT
Goodman Cape will follow the policies of its mother gallery Goodman Johannesburg in stimulating new ideas, invoking memories of the past, dealing with social issues, and promoting artists abroad both with galleries and art fairs, such as Art Basel, and Art Basel Miami Beach. It is also planned to take on controversial issues and promote young artists.
Emma Bedford was born in Cape Town in 1955. Still lives and works here.
SELECTED EXHIBITIONS AND EVENTS MANAGEMENT
2005 �Subject to Change� � Iziko: South African National Gallery (brochure)
2004 �A Decade of Democracy: South African Art 1994 � 2004 from the Permanent Collection of Iziko: South African National Gallery� (book)
Led curatorial team and edited the book.
�Tremor: Contemporary Art from South Africa� (catalogue)
Co-curated with Fabienne Dumont and Marilyn Martin for Palais des Beaux-Arts de Charleroi, Belgium.
2003 �White Like Me: Brett Murray�
Standard Bank Young Artist 2002
DaimlerChrysler Award Winner for Sculpture in 2002
2002 �William Kentridge� (monograph)
Initiated this proposal for SANG and collaborated with the artist and overseas curators to mount this first survey exhibition of William Kentridge�s work in South Africa.
�Beyond the Material: Conceptual Art from the SANG Permanent
2003 � 2000 �Fresh: 7 Young Artists at the SANG� (set of 7 monographs)
Devised this series of artists� residencies, gives a representative group of young artists the opportunity to make new work and have their own catalogues produced.
�Authentic/Ex-centric: Africa in and out of Africa� (book)
Associate Curator with Salah Hassan and Olu Oguibe of exhibition of contemporary art from Africa and the African diaspora for Venice Biennale.
2000 �Can�t Forget, Can�t Remember�: Sue Williamson
�Kay Hassan� (catalogue)
DaimlerChrysler Award for Contemporary Art winner
�Navigation Xcultural� (catalogue): Susan Hefuna
1999 �Heart of Darkness�: Kendell Geers and Bili Bidjocka
�Staking Claims� (catalogue) The Granary
�Video Views: Video art by South African artists�
1998 �Transpositions: Five Swedish Artists in South Africa� (catalogue)
Invited to Sweden to curate an exhibition of my choice for South Africa.
�Land and Lives � Pioneer Black Artists�
�Contemporary Art from Southern Africa: Recent Acquisitions�
�Mapping New Terrain: Cultural Cartography in Post-election
1997 �Lost Histories: Photographs by Joy Gregory� Natale Labia Museum.
1996 �Contemporary South African Art 1985 - 1995 from the South African
National Gallery�s Permanent Collection� (catalogue)
1995 �Objects of Defiance/Spaces of Contemplation� 1st Johannesburg
1993 � 1996 �Ezakwantu: Beadwork from the Eastern Cape� (catalogue)
1994 �Artworks from the Permanent Collection in Tuynhuys�
Selected works of art to represent new South Africa and installed them in office suites of President Mandela, and other Cabinet members.
Bedford, E. �Art and the Public Performance of Democracy: Soap
Boxes by Rosenclaire� in Arte e Mediterraneo
Bedford, E. �The Writing�s on the Wall: The Art of Robin Rhode� in
Dyangane Ose, Elvira Tres Escenarios. Las Palmas: Centro Atlantico
de Arte Moderno, 2006.
Bedford, E. Guest Editor, �Art and Social Development�, Artthrob,
Nov 2005, www.artthrob.co.za
Bedford, E. �Marlene Dumas�, �David Goldblatt�, �William Kentridge�,
Dorothee Kreutzfeldt�, �Tracey Rose� and �Sue Williamson� in Perryer, S. ed. 10 Years, 100 Artists: Art in a Democratic South Africa, Cape Town: Bell-Roberts, 2004.
Bedford, E. ed. A Decade of Democracy: South African Art 1994 � 2004 from the Permanent Collection of Iziko: South African National Gallery, Cape Town: Double Storey Books and Iziko: South African National Gallery, 2004.
Bedford, E., Dumont, F. and Martin, M. Tremor: Contemporary Art from South Africa, Cape Town: Iziko: South African National Gallery, 2004.
Bedford, E. �In the Eye of the Storm: Reflections on Ground Zero� in The Ampersand Foundation 1997 � 2003. Johannesburg: Warren Siebrits Modern and Contemporary Art, 2003.
�Common Ground: The Case for Public Art� in Spier Outdoor Sculpture Biennale 2002.
Bedford, E. (ed) Fresh: Seven Young Artists from South Africa, Cape Town: SANG, including Senzeni Marasela, 2001; Robin Rhode, Dorothee Kreutzfeldt, 2002; Usha Seejarim, Berni Searle, Tracey Rose and Moshekwa Langa, 2003.
Bedford, E. (ed) Staking Claims: Confronting Cape Town, Cape Town: SANG, 1999.
�Antibodies: Misrepresentations of the body in South African art discourse� in Breitz, C. and Atkinson, B. Grey Areas. Johannesburg: Chalkham Hill Press, 1999.
�Re-membering that place: public projects in District Six� co-authored with Tracy Murinik in Soudien, C. and Meyer, R. The District Six Public Sculpture Project, Cape Town: District Six Museum, 1998.
�Art Assets in Cultural Capital� in Dreams and Clouds: Contemporary Art from the New South Africa Stockholm, Sweden: Kulturhuset, 1998.
Bedford, E. (ed) Contemporary South African Art 1985 - 1995 from the South African National Gallery�s Permanent Collection, Cape Town: SANG, 1997. www.museums.org.za/sang/SA_art/
'Exploring Meanings and Identities: Beadwork from the Eastern Cape in the South African National Gallery' in Bedford, E. (ed) Ezakwantu: Beadwork from the Eastern Cape, Cape Town: SANG, 1993, pp 9 � 18.
SELECTED CONFERENCE PAPERS AND LECTURES
�Visualising Truth and Reconciliation�, powerpoint presentation at The TRC: Ten Years On, The Institute for Justice and Reconciliation, April 2006.
�What�s New at MOMA?�, powerpoint presentation for Friends of the South African National Gallery, May 2005.
�The Challenge of Alternative Narratives from South Africa�, paper presented at the International Curatorial Workshop, The Museum of Modern Art, New York in March 2005.
�Fresh from South Africa: Supporting Young Artists�, paper presented at the International Association of Art Critics symposium, in Dakar, Senegal in July 2003.
�The Critical Role of Art Criticism�, seminar presentation at the International Association of Art Critics seminar, Art Criticism in Africa, Dakar, Senegal, July 2003.
�Kentridge in Alexandria�, Iziko Museums of Cape Town, February 2003.
�Divided Worlds: William Kentridge�s Stereoscope�, paper presented at Imagining the Book colloquium, the Library of Alexandria, Egypt, September 2002.
�Radical Readings: Text as Art�, illustrated talk presented at Imagining the Book colloquium, the Library of Alexandria, Egypt, September 2002.
�Mining Memory and Re-writing History in Post-election South Africa� presented at symposium of 7th International Cairo Biennale, Palace of Arts, Cairo, December 1998.
�Lifting the Lid: art and apartheid�s toxic waste in South Africa today� presented at a panel discussion in conjunction with Dreams and Clouds: Contemporary Art from the New South Africa<, Kulturhuset, Stockholm, Sweden, October 1998.
�Negotiating Change in South Africa: visions of contemporary artists� presented to Royal Academy, Stockholm, Sweden, April 1996.
'Arts, identities and interactions: San and Mfengu figurative imagery' co-presented with Anne Solomon at conference Texts and images of PEOPLE, POLITICS AND POWER: the politics of representing the Bushmen people of Southern Africa, August 1994, University of the Witwatersrand and Johannesburg Art Gallery.
OTHER POSITIONS HELD
2005 Member of Advisory Board of the Atlantic Centre for Modern Art (CAAM), Las Palmas, Gran Canaria
Member of task team to organize the CAPE Biennale conference and select Artistic Director.
2003-2004 Invited to serve on the jury for the Dakar Biennale in December 2003 in order to prepare for the exhibition and select award-winners in May 2004.
2003-present Elected to founding committee of the Visual Arts Network of South Africa (VANSA), Western Cape and the national Executive.
1999 � present Member of the Board of Advisors for Public Eye
1996 Served on the panel to select the Artistic Director for the
2nd Johannesburg Biennale. Selected Okwui Enwezor.
1990 � 1995 Secretary of the South African Association of Art and Architectural Historians (Western Cape).