Selling a painting for more than $400m would ordinarily be an earth-shattering or defining moment in an artist’s career. If they are Zimbabwean dollars, however, the occasion serves as a bitter reminder of a dysfunctional economy rather than a rising creative one.
Richard Mudariki sold a work entitled, In Line, in 2008 – “the peak of the hyperinflation in Zimbabwe. And when I received the cheque a month after it was written, it was worthless. That money would not buy you a T-shirt at the time,” he recalls.
Now he is buying his first home. It is possible for artists to thrive in SA – the rapid expansion of the art scene has made it a land of milk and honey for artists from Zimbabwe and the rest of the continent.
The first proper survey of Mudariki’s art, Mutara Wenguva – Timeline, is being staged at the Sanlam Art Lounge in Johannesburg. He has been painting for 17 years and has gone under the radar while the art scene in SA focused on local artists.
Finally, Zimbabwean artists are enjoying their time in the sun. Kudzanai Chiurai is the subject of a retrospective at the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary African Art’s opening exhibition in September and every major gallery in SA represents an artist from Zimbabwe.
Stevenson represents Portia Zvavahera, Smac represents Gareth Nyandoro and others, and Barnard Gallery has just signed up Mudariki.
Not surprisingly, hyperinflation and the collapse of the Zimbabwean currency is a recurring motif in some of the work produced by the artists. Dan Halter has been weaving Z$100-trillion banknotes and Gerald Machona generated astronaut-type outfits made from a print of decommissioned banknotes. read more