James Web at Blank.
James Web at Blank.
Image: Supplied

Art institutions in wealthy places no doubt have emergency funders to call on but our reality in developing countries is dried up funding and huge losses due to the cancellation of events. In an interview, Raphael Chikukwa the new acting director of the National Gallery of Zimbabwe in the recent Latitudes Art Fair ‘LAQ’, highlights that while they might have found clever ways to engage audiences online, many public institutions still face the dilemma of which programmes to cut and which to keep.

The Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra has cancelled its winter programme, as I’m sure other city orchestras have done. It is not only the musicians I’m concerned about but the children who benefit from the orchestra’s wonderful youth development programmes. It is up to us to show support in whatever way we can to make sure that cultural assets are there for future generations - and our enjoyment when gatherings are allowed once again.

Galleries such as Smac and their artists are also doing their bit. Their next exhibition A Show of Solidarity includes a selection of works generously contributed by artists and collectors, with 50% of the proceeds from sales to be donated to the South African Solidarity Fund. View the works at the gallery, in accordance with social distancing protocols, or online. Smac will also be debuting Artist's Room, a series featuring dedicated exhibition spaces where artists can show new work of their choice.

Southern Guild and their featured designers have raised over R200,000 so far from a percentage of the sale of work from Closer, Still, an online exhibition of collectable design. Funds will go to the Afrika Tikkun relief fund, providing food parcels for families in informal settlements around Johannesburg who’ve lost income during the Covid-19 crisis.

Chikukwa reminds us of the important role arts and culture play as “an effective mechanism to provide support for social cohesion and community engagement”. Leslie Wilson of The Smart Museum of Art, University of Chicago, believes in the role of the museum as “a space to process our experience of this time [of Covid-19] and to share, through a range of approaches, how we come to terms with it”. 

On a positive note, and to fuel the creative conversations, here are a few highlights from the local and global art scenes.

WELL-PRESENTED

With all this time spent at the home office, you’re no doubt using platforms such as Zoom and WeTransfer a lot more. WePresent is WeTransfer’s online magazine, which regularly carries “unexpected stories about creativity”. In collaboration with Tate Modern, WePresent recently launched its Yes, but why? project, which aims to explain what makes some of the world’s best artists so brilliant.

By artist Zanele Muholi.
Bester VIII Philadelphia, 2018 By artist Zanele Muholi.
Image: Supplied

The series is presented as a deep dive into the headspace of artists such as Keith Haring, Yayoi Kusama, Lubaina Himid, Olafur Eliasson and Stevenson gallery artist Zanele Muholi. Tate curator Kerryn Greenberg explains through text and recordings how and why the confrontational, yet tender, photographic work of this black, queer, non-binary activist is so significant. The Tate Modern unfortunately has had to postpone the first major mid-career survey of Muholi’s work in the UK due to Covid-19 restrictions. 

PERSONAL TOUR

In many instances, the virtual experience of an exhibition, while less intimate, presents a far clearer guide. While you can generally grab a curator for a personalised tour in a gallery, the artist is seldom available after the madness of the opening events. Blank Projects has a video tour of James Webb's current exhibition What Fresh Hell is This, including commentary by the eloquent artist himself. This exhibition gathers Webb’s recent conceptual, visual and sonic works in a constellation exploring themes of frustration, disruption and belief. Feelings we are all too familiar with right now. 

SLOWING DOWN

While we have you at a slower pace, don’t forget to check out A Film a Day to Keep Coronavirus Away, the Slow Film Festival’s attempt “to battle coronavirus, mitigate isolation and contribute to the general glut of online content” with a retrospective of a film a day from its three-year catalogue.

BREATHLESS

Lovers of the seventh art, who become “breathless” at the thought of a Jean-Luc Godard film, can watch a rare interview (with English subtitles) with the pioneer of the 1960’s French New Wave film. It was recorded at his home in Rolle, Lake Geneva, on April 7, on a cellphone, with Lionel Baier, head of cinema at the University of Art and Design Lausanne. Fat cigar in hand, the 89-year-old shares interesting views on modern media, coverage of Covid-19 and the evolution of language and art and, of course, film. The conversation with the octogenarian, who is still making films, does meander off course a little but is a wonderfully intimate glimpse into his mind and process.

WATCH | Interview with Jean-Luc Godard:

ACCESSING ARCHIVES

Thanks to regular Institute of Contemporary Arts, London, emails, I’ve been alerted to many incredible projects around the world, especially those with relevance to our continent. Locally Grown is a seven-channel “grassroots TV-esque” online platform curated by Renata Cherlise, founder of Blvck Vrchives. Here you’ll find hourly schedules across channels with films, documentaries, historic recordings of live jazz gatherings and “vintage” music videos.

ALL IS NOT FROZEN OVER

While on the subject of archives, for the inaugural edition of Frieze New York Viewing RoomGoodman Gallery presents “Memories: a selection of historically significant work by artists working on the African continent and in the Diaspora”. According to the gallery, “these works all unpack the dynamics of memory and time”. Don't forget to visit their elegantly presented online programme of events, particularly the current show Sense of Place, which will resonate with all of us forced to spend so much time at home, but also asks us to pause and spare a thought for those who are not as fortunate. The show includes work by 14 artists “with far-reaching interests in the concept of ‘place’ – their places of origin, as a defining quality for community, the instability of different spaces, and the emotional or imaginative connections to places”. 

CLOSING THOUGHT

Image: Supplied

‘Stop making stupid people famous’ (2020, cow dung, oil paint and gesso on canvas 40 x 180cm) is a work from Mawande Ka Zenzile’s solo show ‘Udludlilali’ at Stevenson.

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