Rand Merchant Bank (RMB) is well known as a corporate supporter of art in SA, and has for the best part of 20 years sponsored a visual arts incubator programme called RMB Talent Unlocked. The bank recently announced the 12 successful applicants to its 2021 career development programme. Ahead of this year’s Women’s Day, the selected artists are all early-career women.
The Talent Unlocked initiative was for some time showcased through the bank’s sponsor association with Joburg’s Turbine Art Fair, where it was launched through an exhibition programme, titled Fresh Produce, in 2014. With that association at an end, the programme has continued under its own steam, and RMB is staging a selection of the artists’ work in a curated exhibition opening on Aug. 7 at Everard Read CIRCA gallery in Johannesburg.
Later in August, from the 16th to the 23rd, a further selection of these works will be sold at auction on Strauss & Co.’s online platform, providing each of the 12 selected artists with some insight into the sharp end of the art business of showcasing and selling their work commercially.
Apart from the flag of convenience of the official Women’s Day commemoration, RMB is keen to stress that the programme is about support and redress in the local art world. Women artists are undeniably underrepresented, particularly women artists of colour, so the decision to make them the focus of the programme makes sense. The Talent Unlocked initiative was for some time linked to Joburg arts mentoring studio Assemblage, and in line with the goals of the programme through its history, continues to have a strong practical and mentoring orientation. This involves skills development, building professional practice and guiding the development of an initial body of work, out of which the exhibition and sale is drawn. The process, in keeping with the bank’s positioning, extends to marketing, personal finance and sustainable business practice — useful and often overlooked tools for any artist!
“The creative economy enhances our society in many ways, and we believe that the programme plays a positive role in social transformation,” said Carolynne Waterhouse, RMB’s arts and creative custodian.