2015 Reinhold Cassirer Award – Call for Applications


The Bag Factory Artists’ Studios is excited to announce that the call for the 2015 Reinhold Cassirer Award is now OPEN. This prestigious award has helped create and shape the lives and careers of artists such as Blessing Ngobeni and Tshepo Mosopa.

In its 25 year history the Bag Factory has been at the forefront of the visual arts in South Africa. The organisation has provided studios space and opportunities for both local and international artists to create, network, learn from and guide each other. Artists such as David Koloane, Penny Siopis, Helen Sebidi, Sam Nhlengethwa, Benon Lutaaya, Deborah Bell and Usha Seejarim have all benefited from our programmes. As part of the international Triangle Network the Bag Factory is one of almost 50 similar spaces around the world, this allows us to keep our finger on the pulse of the international contemporary art.

The Reinhold Cassirer Award, funded by art auctioneers Strauss & Co and with support of artists Benon Lutaaya and William Kentridge, the award offers an emerging South African artist, in the field of drawing or painting, under the age of 35 the opportunity to spend 10 weeks at the Bag Factory’s studios. The award was founded by the late Nobel Laureate Nadine Gordimer in celebration of her husband Reinhold Cassirer’s love of the arts.

The award will provide the recipient with the opportunity to interact with the artists resident at the Bag Factory. Through the exchange of ideas, mentorship and skills development at the Bag Factory the award provides the artist with an opportunity for substantial creative and professional growth. This educational programme transforms the winner’s practice while providing an amazing platform through which the artist can engage with a broader art audience.

About the Award:

Over the last four years the award has become known for locating amazing local, emerging talent in South Africa, in a similar way as to what Reinhold Cassirer did in his lifetime. Reinhold Cassirer established Sotheby’s in South Africa in 1969 and ran it for 11 years before starting his own gallery, Cassirer’s Fine Art, in Rosebank, Johannesburg. He identified, nurtured and exhibited some of South Africa’s best artists long before they became famous. Major talents like William Kentridge, David Koloane, Sam Nhlengethwa, Deborah Bell and Karel Nel were introduced to the world in his gallery. Cassirer also mounted Gerard Sekoto’s first one-man exhibition in South Africa. Reinhold’s legacy lives on through this award.


Tshepo Mosopa, the first recipient of the award in 2011 has since participated in two international residencies in France and the USA, a finalist for ABSA L’atelier, numerous group exhibition and most recently the first winner of the SA Taxi Art Foundation Award. Mosopa’s work acts as a catalyst for a dialogue between different communities, the artist, the subject and the viewer. Through this he records and communicates the plight of society by the process of interaction, observation and investigating the challenges and conditions, their impact psychological on different geographic mappings.

Blessing Ngobeni a self taught painter at the age of 27. The most profound part of his application is the work itself. His paintings are filled with the irony of the cabaret, sporting the influences of Norman Catherine and Miró, while never forgetting his township roots. Ngobeni has since had three solo exhibitions with Gallery MOMO, attended international residencies and has exhibited his work at the JHB Art Fair and other international Art Fairs. His work is in many private collections including pieces owned by actor Samuel L Jackson. Blessing was also nominated as on of the M&G Top 200 Young South Africans in 2014.

Asanda Kupa the third recipient of the award has participated in numerous group exhibitions, art fairs and a solo exhibition at Art Afrique gallery . Kupa continues to commit himself with matters concerning his community in Molteno in the Eastern Cape. He recently funded a project he calls ‘Inkululeko art reach’where he teaches school children basic art and life skills, and together they beautify the small town by painting murals on ruined walls. He is currently producing documentary about Molteno.

Thato Nhlapo, the most recent winner of the award has participated in a European residency with beer company Grolsch in 2014 as part of their 100 year celebration for which he reimagined his work on a SMEG Fridge. Nhlapo uses his graffiti style to challenge traditional art practices. His work transgress the traditional forms by bringing the outside into the gallery spaces.

How can artists apply for the Cassirer award?

Applicants MUST submit (preferably by email):

1. a single A4-page typed motivation, including personal details and outlining reasons why the artists believes he or she deserves the award.

2. a representative portfolio of the artist’s work including at least three original works and no more than 15, preferably by email. Images should not be larger than 300 kilobytes and each email no larger than two megabytes. (Please note that the Bag Factory does not accept responsibility for loss and damage of applications received by post and courier, and will not return slides unless accompanied by return postage and a suitable envelope/package. Please do not send original works.)

3. the artist’s curriculum vitae

4. a copy of the artist’s South African ID

The award takes place between October and December 2015 and Applicants MUST be able to take up award during this time.


Applications must be sent to INFO@BAGFACTORYART.ORG.ZA.
Incomplete applications will not be considered.

THE WINNER OF THE AWARD WILL BE ANNOUNCED ON 15 OCTOBER at STRAUSS & CO (more info on announcement will be provided closer to date)

If you have not heard from us by this time, please consider your application unsuccessful.

The Bag Factory and the winners of the Award would like to thank our funders and sponsors for making this opportunity a reality.