'If you are an artist, you are a leader. If you are a leader, you must make a stand and tell everyone who you are and why they should listen to you. In this hyper-competitive world, you must be brave and embrace your genius or your voice will be silenced by those around you who are not afraid to speak up'
Brainard Carely (2011)
As the year is about to end, l have decided to do a year-end appraisal, a little like how they do it in the business world. I must say, for one to honestly and accurately assess oneself on the value and quality of what one has done over a given period of time is not as easy task, but l will give it my best shot. With the relatively few years of experience I have in creating art, I think I can reasonably assess where my work fits in to the local visual art world.
I think l have a fair understanding of the art market l operate in. It is a comparatively small market and the potential client base limited. Some art professionals I have talked to say there are only about 300 serious art collectors in South Africa, and an estimated 5 500 visual artists in the country, mostly concentrated in the three major cities of Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban. So you can imagine how highly competitive it is, and that each artist is working very hard to keep their boat afloat. However, that being said, it is still the most mature and robust visual arts economy on the African continent, with an annual turnover of nearly R2billion.*
My objectives at the beginning of the year were to steadily create quality artworks; to effectively use my abilities, time and resources for the advancement of my career; to be disciplined and focused; and ultimately to succeed as a professional artist (though that can be subjective). Below I chronicle some of the highlights of my year:
Cape Town Art Fair, February 2014
|Arrested (2013), acrylic on canvas, 100x100cm|
The 2014 Cape Town Art Fair coincided with the prestigious World Design Capital Cape Town 2014 events at the end of February. With its vision of turning Cape Town into a world-class art destination, this edition of the CTAF showcased the best of African contemporary art with an increased number of leading art galleries participating, in comparison to its 2013 edition. I showed a number of paintings at the fair with Johans Borman Fine Art, in an exhibition that included a selection of South African Masters such as Gerard Sekoto, Walter Battiss and Maggie Laubser, as well as contemporary artists including Marlene Dumas, Hennie Niemann Jnr, Kyle Weeks and Marlene von Dürckheim, among others.
Open Agenda Solo Exhibition, March 2014
|The Confessional (2013), acrylic on canvas, 80x60cm|
It has been said that art fairs are about selling paintings, and a solo exhibition is about 'selling the artist'. ‘Open Agenda’, my second solo exhibition at Johans Borman Fine Art in Cape Town, took place at the beginning of March. A solo exhibition is the most important single event in any artist's calendar – the opportunity to present what he or she does in the fullest context, and to make a statement**. The exhibition continued with my comments on the society we live in, and encouraged discussion on various issues. The works on this exhibition were engaging, and allowed the audience to enter into a dialogue on a variety of topics. Thus the exhibition space became a place where individuals could congregate and debate openly on the various topics on the agenda, hence the title, ‘Open Agenda’.
Africa Now Auction, London, May 2014
|Big fish eats small fish (2013), acrylic on canvas, 70x70cm|
‘Africa Now’, Bonhams’ annual contemporary African art auction, was held in May, and included works by masters of African modernism and other talents from the contemporary art scene. According to Bonhams, fifteen African countries were represented in the auction, and the top prices were achieved by Nigerian artists – not surprising as Nigeria has become Africa’s largest economy. I enjoyed the ‘Porsche coffin’ by Paa Joe, and the weapons chair by Goncalo Mabunda. Other artists represented were Ben Enwonwu, El Anatsui, Lovemore Kambudzi, Aboudia Abdoulaye Diarra Ssouba, Cheri Cherin, Malangatana and Michael Soi, among others. 'Big fish eats small fish', my 2013 painting, was among the lots that sold successfully at the auction.
Dakar Biennale, Senegal, July 2014
|Connoisseurs of Contemporary African Art (2014), acrylic on canvas, 73.5x89cm|
I had the opportunity to be in Dakar during the first week of the 2014 Dakar Biennale. This event has become a unique opportunity for those who are seriously interested in contemporary African art to meet. In its 11th edition, the Biennale featured 61 contemporary artists from Africa and the diaspora in its main exhibition. It was an influential showcase with several works endorsing the renewed energy of practicing African artists and their growing relevance on the global stage. My painting, ‘Connoisseurs of Contemporary African Art’ was inspired by this visit, following the discussion on contemporary African art I attended there. Is it a blend of the past with the present, or a view of the present that at the same time evokes a rich cultural past? To read more about my visit, click here
Politics of Life Exhibition, Jo'burg Art Fair, August 2014
|Richard with Illusion of Freedom (2014) oil on canvas, 150.5x150.5cm (Johannesburg)|
Protocollum Art Journal, October 2014
|Page 166 of Protocollum Artists' Journal features four of my paintings|
A new and innovative 240 page artists' journal by Dickersbach Kunstverlag, a Berlin-based publisher, featured some of my 2013 paintings alongside those of 72 artists from 54 countries across Africa, Eastern Europe, Latin America, the Middle East and Asia. This was its first issue, and it was launched and distributed in October, just in time to take advantage of the European art fair season. The publisher points out that the journal has no adverts and no curatorial self-fulfilment, but “only artists' thoughts, visions and ideas, offering authentic insights into the art scenes around the world” ***. You can order your copy by clicking here
Zimbabwe Annual Exhibition Award, Harare, December 2014
|8 o'clock News (2014) oil on canvas, 150x150cm (Award Winning Painting)|
The 2014 Zimbabwe Annual Exhibition was held in December, some twelve years after the last event was held in 2002. Opened by the Sports, Arts and Culture Minister at the National Gallery of Zimbabwe in Harare, this was a major event in the visual arts calendar of Zimbabwe. Back in the 1980s when it was held under the title, Zimbabwe Heritage Exhibition, this major event received corporate sponsorship from companies like Baringa, Mobil Zimbabwe, Anglo American and the National Merchant Bank, among others. It was, and is still, seen as a means of developing, empowering and promoting local Zimbabwean artists who work in disciplines such as painting, sculpture, mixed media and photography. Four accolades for the best works on the exhibition were awarded, and I received one of these awards for '8 O'clock News'. I would like to congratulate fellow award winners, Tawanda Takura, Julius Mashambadope and Johnson Zuze. '8 O'clock News' will be on show at the National Gallery of Zimbabwe until the end of January 2015
There we go – those were my major highlights for 2014. Measuring them against my goals and targets for the year, l would say l scored fairly well. My assessment was based on talking to my gallery, Johans Borman Fine Art, chatting with fellow artists, curators and collectors, and obviously doing a count of successful sales. However, some of the more astonishing results came in from my online presence.
The numbers that came through for the year in regards to visitors, and hits to my website (thanks to Google Analytics), blog and social media sites were impressive! My website has been live for just under three years, and l was happy to see a huge online audience of 34 223 visitors and 83 053 hits for this year – a huge increase if l compare that to the 2013 stats of just 4 309 visitors and 24 863 hits.
I would like to thank all those who have supported me during the year; collectors, colleagues, friends and family.
Best wishes for the Festive Season, and enjoy a fruitful 2015!
To view a comprehensive collection of all my paintings from 2011 to date, please visit my page on Johans Borman Fine Art’s website.
- * An assessment of the visual arts sector in South Africa and assistance to the department of Arts and Culture in developing a national policy for the visual art (DAC/0006/07/T) Research Report, 2010, The Human Sciences Research Council, African Micro Economic Research Umbrella (AMERU), Univeristy of Witwaterrand, Thompson Research Services, South Africa
- ** Paul Mccaul, 2010, 10 Steps to building a vaible business, www.anartistbusinessguide.com
- *** Protocollum, Dickersbach Kunstverlag, Berlin, Germany