20 Stellenbosch: Two Decades of South African Sculpture
20: South African Sculpture of the Last Two Decades was hosted by the NIROX Foundation in 2010 and presented selected examples of sculpture from roughly the period since Nelson Mandela’s release until the hosting of the World Cup. This exhibition was, in part, a survey of the achievements made by South African artists in three-dimensional work over the last two decades. In addition attention was paid to artists who are frequently excluded from major Contemporary art group exhibitions but who have made a significant impact in the field; to give due credit to rural artists; to consider performance within a sculptural context; and to challenge assumptions about the scope and depth of local sculpture. The exhibition was generally well received by the public and press.
In curating a new show, 20 Stellenbosch, on the basis of the NIROX exhibition I will build on the successful elements and strong points of the earlier show while addressing some problems that emerged from it. I shall also reconsider some elements of the initial curatorial strategy and hope to include a few artists who I wished to have on 20 NIROX but was unable to due to various reasons.
In essence 20 Stellenbosch will be structured within the same broad curatorial framework as 20 NIROX: to present a survey that represents the achievements made in South African Sculpture over the last twenty years. I shall include most of the artists on the original show but may select different work due to the different environment, logistical issues and due to reasons of availability.
The exhibition will consist of outdoor sculpture placed at various locations within the historic town of Stellenbosch and which will be on display for a year. In this I am following on Dylan Lewis’s very successful project where his work was similarly displayed. In addition, certain works will be situated indoors and in site-specific areas outside of the main town due to the nature of the work or at the request of the artist concerned. In this there is a curatorial challenge in that the unity and structure of the exhibition will need to be carefully considered given that works will be separated from each other and will, in many cases, be seen isolated rather than in the context of a common space. This can be addressed in part by using identifiable ‘branding’ and labeling, the production of a map or newspaper along the lines of 20 NIROX, giving the viewer visual clues to the fact that there are other sculptures to be seen should he or she ‘stumble upon’ one, and being consistent in the use of plinths, etc.
While it is essential that 20 Stellenbosch be seen as a development from the earlier show, it should be made clear that in many ways this is a different exhibition. I hope to include most of the artists who participated on 20 NIROX but inevitably there will be some shifts and the inclusion of new names. Also due to the long duration of the exhibition and the risks and technical challenges of this installation, certain works will not be suitable for inclusion. I do, however, aim to build upon the use of performance-as-sculpture, which was successful on the whole.
I also hope that a comprehensive educational programme can be integrated into 20 Stellenbosch, given the large number of school learners who could be reached in this way from the surrounding areas.
Works will be selected that demonstrate the finest achievements in local sculptural practice from the last two decades. While there will obviously be no unifying ‘theme’ throughout, I will aim to show (in certain cases) tendencies and parallels in the work of individuals separated by time, geography or education. This happened almost by accident in 20 NIROX where themes such as domesticity, the absurd & the banal, and the nature of ‘humanness’ seemed to emerge in distinct ways time and again and allowed for leaps and linkages of seemingly disparate works. I will be very conscious of this in curating 20 Stellenbosch and due to the different locale such connections will be very important if any sort of ‘unity’ and cohesiveness is to be achieved.
Like its predecessor, 20 Stellenbosch will aim to do justice the richness, technical innovation, creativity and challenges seen in local sculpture. Because of the limitation on the number of artists included and the logistical challenges we will face this exhibition, as before, will not be able to claim comprehensiveness, survey status or full representivity. Nevertheless, I shall endeavour, once again, to remind the viewers and passers-by, that South African fine art, and sculpture in particular, can be unexpected, thought provoking, moving and beautiful. Finally, it is a particular aim of mine with 20 Stellenbosch to demonstrate the power and rewards of having art in one’s surroundings and engaging and being engaged with creativity as one goes about one’s daily business.