Wednesday, December 4, 2013

2013 Art Fairs, Auctions and Exhibitions: contemporary African art, the art world’s ‘next big thing’



It’s that time of the year again, when you sit down to relax, share with friends and family, and enjoy the festive season. It is also time for some to reflect on the year that was and note the highs and the lows, the sweet and the sour.


Looking back, it seems a lot happened over the past two years in my professional career. I am probably thinking that this comes out of the huge the attention being given to modern and contemporary African Art by the art world. Many think that African contemporary fine art is the ‘next big thing’. According to Joost Bosland this attention has grown institutionally, in the art market and most noticeably in the press. Rachel Hamada notes that this growing inclination is within Africa among the wealthy to collect art made by artists within their culture and an increasing realization in Europe and America that African modern art can offer quality and diversity. There have been record sales for Africa art at auction houses, with experts at Bonhams confessing that their sales have been driven by an interest in Africa. The Auction Room, a new online auction platform, recently held an auction of African contemporary art that was well received.  
All this is very exciting for artists from the continent. To top it up, Angola’s success at the Venice Biennale this year is so much welcomed. Along with this excitement, there has been a steady and focused work flow from the studio on a consistent body of work since my last exhibition in June 2012 at Johans Borman Fine Art in Cape Town. Some of these works from this new collection have already been shown at various platforms in South Africa and London. My second exhibition is set to follow early next year in Cape Town.
What follows is a look back account of the exciting creative and contemporary art events that l took part in the year 2013.

SPI National Portrait Award, Rust-en- Vrede Gallery, Durbanville, Cape Town, South Africa

28 August 2013

The National Portrait Award, the first ever in South Africa, was held at Rust-en-Vrede gallery in Cape Town where 40 artists made it to the top 40 finalists in a hugely contested competition in which over 1700 entries were received. Sponsored by Sanlam Private Investments (SPI) the award is aimed to celebrate and showcase the best original portrait artwork in South Africa. The winning top price of R100 000 went to KZN artists Heather Gourlay-Conygham for her nude male portrait.
 
Mukwirikwiri (Foreigner), Acrylic on canvas (Part of traveling exhibition in South Africa)

Amongst the top 40 finalist pieces which culminated in a national touring exhibition, was an autobiographical artwork titled ‘Mukwirikwiri (foreigner)’. 'Mukwirikwiri' is a derogatory name given to foreign nationals by fellow South African citizens in the townships. This piece depicts an image of a traveling document, with a portrait of a young man migrating to one of Africa’s strongest economy in search of opportunities. It comments on issues of migration, xenophobia and homophobia.


FNB Joburg Art Fair, Sandton Convention Centre, Johannesburg South Africa.

27-29 September 2013

In its 6th year, the FNB Joburg Art Fair is the largest art event on the continent and represents a large collection of African and South African contemporary art under one roof. With a turnover of about 1.7 million Euros, more than 20 000 visitors and 35 galleries from 6 countries from Africa and Europe, it is an honour for one to have their work showcased at this prestigious art event.

In the Shadow of the Rainbow, a group exhibition curated by Johans Borman Fine Art, featured three of my work. Considered to be one of the best exhibitions at the fair, this exhibition was a juxtaposition of old masters (Gerard Sekoto, George Pemba, Peter Clarke, Sydney Khumalo among others) and the new contemporary masters (Pieter Hugo, William Kentridge, GuyTillim, Brett Murray among other emerging masters). According to the curator, the objective of the exhibition was to draw attention to and stimulate debate on issues such as cultural differences, economic inequality, racial prejudice and the everyday realities of the Rainbow Nation and Africa.
The Chinese Tailor, Acrylic on canvas, 100x100cm (Private Collection)


The Chinese Tailor (acrylic on canvas), was one of the paintings which was part of this exhibition. This piece engaged the viewer and asked the most important question about China's economic and political motives in Africa.

1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair, Somerset House, London 
16-20 October 2013

The inaugural edition of the 1:54 Contemporary African art fair, which took place in the heart of London form the 16th  to 20 October 2013, was dedicated to showcasing the best in contemporary art from the continent. It brought together 15 exhibitors from Africa and Europe to present over 70 emerging and established artists. The founding director of the fair, Touria El Glaoui, notes that 1:54 came into being through the emergence and growth of the international support for contemporary African art.

Among the many exhibitors at 1:54, the Museum of Modern Art Equatorial Guinea was unique is that it showcased the highlights of its permanent collection of art from the both the contemporary and traditional artworks. Curated by Marc Stanes, it focused on artists form a wide variety of African countries including those from Zimbabwe, South Africa, Senegal, Benin, Equatorial Guinea among others. It is no surprise that they got all the media attention. 

The Last Judgment, Acrylic on canvas, 200x165cm (Collection of MOMArt EG)


Included in the artworks on show was The Last judgement, a painting that depicts a scene of the final judgement in the political world in which judgement is being laid down for world politicians/leaders. It is a comment for justice for all.


Auction Room African Art Auction: Contemporary and Modern Art from Africa and the Diaspora.

18 October 2013, London   

An extensive range of important artworks from artists from Africa and it’s diaspora were up on auction at the inaugural edition of the Auction Room’s African Art auction: Contemporary and Modern Art from Africa and the Diaspora. According to Ed Cross, the African Art specialist at Auction Room, the online auction was a carefully selected to include a diverse range of artworks for the appeal of different collectors. Amongst the big names were Nigerian master Twins Seven Seven, El Anatsui, one of Africa’s greatest artists and a global ‘superstar’, George Lilanga, Goncalo Mabunda, Peter Clarke, Zwelethu Mthethwa among others.  

Coup d'etat, Acrylic on canvas, 95x65cm (sold above estimate)

Coup d’etat, a painting highlighting the extent of by which frustrations by the man on the street can lead to, was amongst this collection of important artworks at the auction. According to those close to the activities on the auction night, the artworks received a good response, selling above estimate.



As we say good bye to what was a very exciting year in the fine arts, we also look forward to yet another exhilarating year full of promises to take contemporary African fine art to a whole new level.  As an emerging artist, one is honoured to be part of this era in the rise of African fine art and artists on the international art scene.

I invite you to visit my website (www.richardmudariki.com) for regular updates on more creative events and thought provoking art in 2014.

I also take this opportunity to wish you all a happy festive season and trust you will enjoy it with family and friends. In closing, a recent article on the Wall Street Journal by Anna Russell, tweeted by @artnet (www.artnet.com) interestingly noted that fine art is emerging as a highly accessible option for those seeking to expand their holiday giving list. So if you are seeking to share an original gift with friends and family in the form of an art piece, be sure to check out the available artworks at Johans Borman Fine Art by clicking here.

Merry Christmas!

Sources:

Joost Bosland and Bomi Odofunde, Peer Conversation. Omenka Magazine, Volume 1 Issue 2, Published quarterly by Revilo, Lagos, 2013,



Ed Cross, The African Art Auction: Contemporary and Modern Art form Africa and the Diaspora, Auction Catalogue, Auction Room, London, 2013,



Touria El Glauoi, Foreword to the 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair 2013 Catalogue, published by Art Africa Ltd, London.