Report from South Africa – May/June 2014

Matthew Blackman, editor of online South African art publication, ArtThrob, rounds up the best of this month's magazine's news and reviews

By Matthew Blackman

Daniel Naude and Anton Kannemeyer, Detail from Ankole 2. Lake Mburo district, Nyabushozi, Western Region, Uganda, 2012 and Soccer Player (1). Courtesy Stevenson Misheck Masamvu, Munamato Wemusoja, 2013. Courtesy blank projects Riason Naidoo at the Iziko South African National Gallery Candice Breitz, Treatment, 2013. Courtesy Goodman Gallery

With the elections now safely behind us, we were all looking forward to returning to as apolitical a world as can be in South Africa. However, with the synchronization of Ester Williams, the art world immediately became a cauldron of its own political wranglings. Iziko Museums – the umbrella organization for all of Cape Town’s government run museums – allowed the director of its art collections’ contract to run out without renewal and without appointing a new person to the position. With some condoning Iziko’s move and others questioning it (and with the ever-present question of race still hanging unhelpfully over the decision) the twittersphere was abuzz with comments. And then there were the exhibitions. From Zimbabweans, to satirists, to up and coming photographers and a slightly confusing group effort, we headed into a winter which could be one of considerable discontent.

Anton Kannemeyer and Daniel Naudé at Stevenson, Cape Town

Anton Kannemeyer, one of South Africa’s most well-known cartoonists and satirists who made the leap into the gallery, is showing at Stevenson in Cape Town with the now relatively established young photographer Daniel Naudé. Kannemeyer, whose often controversial depictions of racial disharmony, is again armed with his usual set of graphic pejoratives. However, Tim Leibbrandt, questions just how the satire, that is one of the standard tropes within the South African art, can remain effective if it does not begin to transform itself. Leibbrandt also questions how the horns both bovine (in Naudé’s case) and reproductive (in Kannemeyer’s) can be exhibited in the same space without unintended confusion.

Misheck Masamvu, Life Sentence, at blank projects, Cape Town

Perhaps one of Zimbabwe’s and indeed Africa’s most promising painters crossed the Limpopo – and a fair amount of semi-arid desert – to show at blank projects in Cape Town. Misheck Masamvu, who was one of the successes of the Zimbabwe Pavilion in Venice in 2011, showed in his exhibition Life Sentence in Cape Town, his disquieting talent. Above all it is Masamvu’s skill, both creative and technical, that places him in a league that many artists working in South Africa can only aspire to.

Director of the National Gallery Shown the Door

Riason Naidoo, the director of the Iziko’s art collection (a position more commonly referred to as ‘the Director of the National Gallery’) did not have his five-year contract renewed by the Iziko Museums. Naidoo’s stewardship was not without controversy with a critically panned but well attended Tretchikoff exhibition being a pot of ever simmering discontent within certain sections of the South African art world. Although some are choosing to question his competency the real question remains: why is a public institution refusing to comment on or offer reasons as to why they did not wish to extend Naidioo’s contract? Iziko Museums have now gone as far as to get court injunction gagging Naidoo from making any further comments to the media.

Group Exhibition, Surfacing, at Goodman, Cape Town

Goodman’s group exhibition Surfacing, which coincided with a visit from a committee from the Tate, was seemingly a showcase of the Galleries wealth of talent. Despite some strong works, notably by Candice Breitz and the young up and coming Haroon Gunn-Salie, overall the exhibition seemed a little wayward. With a confusing quote from Sartre in praise of Frantz Fanon’s ideas of political violence supposedly at the exhibitions thematic centre, the exhibition failed to get off the surface.

See here for more ArtThrob news, reviews and features from South Africa

11 June 2014