The Standard Bank Corporate Collection represents the diversity of South African art; this exhibition of new acquisitions hints at that variety. Most of the pieces on display were completed recently, but there are also works from the first half of the twentieth century. Visitors also have an opportunity to reflect on the complex dynamics of arts patronage.
The Standard Bank Corporate Collection includes more than 1200 works by over 250 artists, representing the diversity of South African art – both “historical” and “contemporary”. New Acquisitions, an exhibition of art works recently added to the Collection, condenses that variety.
Most of the pieces on display were completed in the last decade; two notable exceptions are Job Kekana’s Madonna and Child (1938) and John Koenakeefe Mohl’s Sophiatown (c.1946). A number of the more recent works participate, deliberately or coincidentally, in a “conversation with the past” – from Haroon Gunn-Salie’s bronze cast Sunday Best (2014), invoking the forced removals of the 1970s, to Joni Brenner’s painting of the 300 million-year-old Taung skull. Claudette Schreuders’ sculpture Eclipse (2008) presents a mother-and-child pairing to echo Kekana’s, while Michelle Mathison’s Breaking Ground (2014) may put some visitors in mind of Gerard Sekoto’s iconic 1947 painting Song of the Pick. Experimentation in portraiture and self-portraiture, as well as in different methods of conveying the dynamic human form, connects the work of Lisa Brice, Churchill Madikida, Diane Victor, Paul Emmanuel and the Essop brothers, Hasan and Husain. Ghana’s Owusu-Ankoma and Zimbabwean artist Kudzanai Chiurai offer perspectives from elsewhere on the African continent.
This exhibition also offers an opportunity to reflect on the complex dynamics of arts patronage. Why do we value the arts – and can we put a price tag on this value? What motivates companies, individuals and state institutions to sponsor an arts project or to purchase works of art? What are the advantages and risks of such an investment, and what kinds of responsibility come with it?
Ann Toerien (Total Exposure)
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