Ed’s letter | Step into the sun, step into the light
In a blink, a tornado of sketches, of sculptures, of triptychs and “conceptual pieces”, gathered the Wanted team up and deposited us into another world for a couple of weeks. No yellow brick roads or emerald cities, I’m afraid — but verdant vineyards dotted with art, our own Wizard, Mr Kentridge, and a refreshed art fair in the City of Gold more than made up for it. Yup, I’m talking about putting this, our annual art issue, together (with apologies to L Frank Baum, of course). In the midst of a domestic dark spot of campaign donations and emigration talk, it has been a saturated dose of unadulterated joy and positivity.
Take for example, my reaction when I walked into the newly minted Javett Centre at the University of Pretoria and clapped eyes on Alexis Preller’s pivotal work, Discovery. My smile was maniacal. Seeing this vast panel of technicoloured brilliance put me on a high with which no field of poppies could ever compete. No surprise that we’ve put it on our cover.
Even I, who exist on the very periphery of the art world, had heard about this work for years. Jettisoned in the empty Transvaal Provincial Administration building in Pretoria for decades, it had become the stuff of legends — whispered about by auctioneers, art dealers, and philanthropists.
And now there it sits. On display in an exquisite new art centre. Taking pride of place for all of us to see. Incandescently beautiful, it’s all ours — a South African treasure.
A morning at this art centre made my heart sing. The Preller is just the tip of the iceberg. Curatorial guru Christopher Till has gathered an opening exhibition that reads like the essential history to South African art. Sekoto, Siopis, Pierneef, Laubser, Mgudlandlu, and Catherine — and that’s just four steps into one gallery — long before you even think of clocking the Mapungubwe Rhino that’s also housed there.
Javett aside, there’s also the unimaginably significant retrospective of William Kentridge’s work, on at both the Zeitz Mocaa and Norval Foundation simultaneously (you’d have to get to CT to see it). There’s the revamped FNB Art Joburg — always my favourite event on the calendar — plus the new Latitudes and Underline fairs happening at the same time. Then add the fact that two of our knockout local artists, Mary Sibande and Zanele Muholi, are gearing up for big international solo shows, and you get the gist. It’s a luminous moment for local art. One to celebrate. And one, as you’d expect, we’ve got covered in this magazine.
It’s also a timeous reminder that really, there’s no place like home.
• Cover credits: Preller’s 13m-long masterpiece will be on display at the Javett Art Centre, Pretoria. Alexis Preller, Discovery, 1963. Image: Judd van Rensburg