INTRODUCING OUR GUEST EDITOR
It is significant that the FNB Joburg Art Fair, which opened on 6 September at the Sandton Convention Centre, selected a woman as this year’s featured artist.
Billie Zangewa, who created our exquisite cover image, is fast attracting global acclaim for her delicate, raw-silk collages of herself engaging in everyday activities, such as child minding, cooking, and reading.
It is also significant that we invited art collector, Art Basel global patron, Tate Africa acquisitions committee member, Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa advisory board director, and self-confessed art activist Pulane Kingston to assist us in curating this art edition of Wanted in celebration of art month in Johannesburg.
Kingston has made a conscious decision to mainly collect the works of female artists, and believes that it is time for an intentional focus on female artists if the art world wants to be seen to be appreciating the work of men and women in equal measure, as their work is just as competent.
We are delighted to be part of this intent.
ED’S LETTER | PULANE KINGSTON
A new generation of African women is finally making notable inroads into the centre of the international cultural sector. They bring a new impetus to the art ecosystem, adding their fresh voices to reflections on questions of history, identity, representation, healing, and spirituality. These women, who have been largely overlooked and operated mainly in the margins of the local, regional, and global contemporary art ecosystem, are now making an impact not only as contemporary artists, but also as curators, gallery owners, art advisors, patrons, collectors, and founders of art fairs. These women stand on the shoulders of their forebears who established the preliminary work on which they are currently building their careers in art.
In this edition of Wanted, these exciting developments are explored against the backdrop of a steady increase in visibility of art produced by African artists. Their contribution is evidenced by the ongoing exhibitions and increased acquisition of their work at galleries, private and corporate collections, museums, fairs, and auction houses globally.
The statistics point to an emerging African contemporary art market that accounts for just a fraction of the global art market. The 2018 Art Market Report revealed that South America and Africa made up less than 4% of the $63.7-billion global market share of sales. In spite of these sobering statistics, the fact that contemporary African art drew interest globally only in the past two decades or so means that we have every reason to be optimistic about the significant opportunities for growth.
Like elsewhere in the world, our galleries (which continue to dominate the visual art landscape) still represent a higher number of men than women contemporary artists. In the context of contemporary women artists from Africa, statistics suggest that when woman artists are able to break into the “boys’ club” and find some measure of art-market success, they are likely to be, on average, more successful than their male counterparts. For instance, in 2016, South African-born Marlene Dumas and Ethiopian-born Julie Mehretu were the top-selling contemporary artists by value.
In this edition, I shine a spotlight on eight young and dynamic locally based South African women contemporary artists who have been successful in disrupting the status quo and have sparked the interest of international curators, brokers, and collectors. These artists are most definitely among those whose distinct voices are generating great interest both locally and beyond. As they continue to establish themselves on the global contemporary art stage, we should study, follow, and support their career trajectories.
While these creators have captured the world’s attention, we are poised with a real opportunity to recast the foundation for a visual art system that is vibrant and equitable. It is imperative for women to be integral to the institution of art. To achieve this, we need to grow our collector base, find ways of supporting those artists who remain outside the institutional mainstream, and strengthen and reposition our public art institutions. In the unlikely event that the world’s attention shifts elsewhere, my conviction is that we would remain independently robust.
As you immerse yourself in this art edition, I hope that you will be inspired to take a closer look at our growing contemporary art landscape and consider ways of contributing towards ensuring its sustainability.
I am most appreciative of having being invited to guest edit this edition of Wanted.
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