Artist Walter Wahll Battis selected by Art Vault gallery owner Dale Sargent
Dale Sargent of the Art Vault in Johannesburg will be attending his 5th Turbine Art Fair in July.
“There’s a real energy about the fair, unlike others,” Sargent says. “It really does cater to anyone that’s interested in South African art. It’s an unintimidating fair.”
“At Turbine Art Fair you see everything -- from people buying their first piece of art through to your established collectors.”
This relaxed air extends to the work. And while Sargent will be thinking through this year’s exhibition a little more fastidiously than previously, he’s aware that it’s the unique and sought after pieces that will turn heads.
He’s been keeping one specific item for the event: Walter Battis’ sweetly pornographic work tiled Orgy 4 dating back to circa 1973.
“My belief is that you enter into a spiritual state through sex,” the late Battis once said in an interview with researchers Manie Eager and David Davidow. “I do erotic art, which to me is a form of beauty which I think should be expounded. I think that it is very necessary to liberate the mind to another beauty.”
In an introductory essay to the catalogue Walter Battis: Gentle Anarchist, published for a retrospective exhibition at Standard Bank Gallery in 2005, writer Andre Croucamp notes that Battis had found freedom attending orgies while traveling in the US, quite late in life.
Art Vault’s screen print of Orgy 4, pulled from an edition of 39, has been lying in a drawer waiting for a special event. Sargent obtained it from another dealer who, he thinks, stowed it away because “she found it a bit risqué.”
“I find the work playful and fun,” Sargent says. “Each person sees the work in a different way, which I’m sure is what Battis would have intended when he produced the work.”
Sargent has observed members of the public engaging with Battis’ naughty content before: “Someone would leave laughing; some would shake their heads and walk on; others wouldn’t let their kids near it. Everyone has a different take on the work.
“But it’s playful and fun – erotic, but never intended to be pornographic.“