Editorial Comment by Stefan Hundt – Curator: Sanlam Art Collection


John Koenakafee Mohl 1903 – 1985 Snow Morning, Sophiatown 1942 oil on board MTN Art Collection

The CTAF is one of the most significant events in the Cape Town and South African Art Eco system.  The diversity of this year’s offering was notable in contrast to the previous year where portraiture seemed so dominant amongst the exhibits of so much of the galleries. Being a contemporary fair the CTAF really lives up to its name.

Contemporary and “cutting edge” is what is aspired to. Too often though it is contemporary with rather tatty edge. My overall sense was that many artists were desperate to impress with a decidedly peculiar approach rather than a concerted control of the medium and the manner of presentation. The viewer is confronted with deliberate anti conformist approach to materials and media for what seems “for the sake of it” rather than a particular intention, to imbue the material with meaning. The result often is artworks which look decidedly open ended and incomplete.  Installed on their own wall space they appear to hang in a type of timeless limbo.

When it comes to traditional forms of presentation, often subsumed under the term “modern”: these were distinctly rare amongst the exhibits of this year’s fair. For the viewer with little or no historical knowledge the fair presents itself as world of infinite visual pleasure and sometimes conceptual torture. All of this, including pricing that is presented in anything by the local currency, has made art contemporary art fair a type of wonderland.

The number of galleries showcasing works by art long established artists previously under the rubric “past” has dwindled so such that the past is no longer present with exception of Wall gallery and the occasional drawing, print or painting shown in the more established big weight dealerships.

Where does one then go to get a historical and contextual perspective on what the South African art ecosystem looks like outside the wonderland of the CTAF?

Thomas Nkuna 1959 – 1992 Amandla Iliswe iAfrika! 1989 oil on canvas MTN Art Collection

The Iziko National Gallery currently presents a bit of a marathon exhibit celebrating its 150 anniversary. Viewers get swept through a huge diversity of South African Art history, of art making and collecting. The viewer is engaged to contemplate the motivations that lie behind the acquisitions and donations whilst in between the various exhibits – some not “art” as such – the curator Andrew Lamprecht has cunningly placed works which jolt the eye and the mind – invoke historical occurrences and question the value of art in a fraught and unequal society. For any visitor to the CTAF a visit to the ISANG would provide a mind opening experience of what art in society means.

Similarly, the exhibition Re Mmôgô (we are together in Setswana) currently on view at the Sanlam Art Gallery in Bellville, provides a historical overview of South African art history using works drawn from the Sanlam and MTN Art Collections.  Selected key works from each collection initiate thematic and formal narratives which range from the activist political engaged social commentary seen in the woodcuts by Elza Botha (“Manifes”) a screen print by William Kentridge (The Battle between Yes and No) and the contrived large scale photograph by Yinka Shonibare (Diary of a Victorian Dandy: 14h00); the South West African border war, Gavin Younge Forces Favourites, civil protest such Thomas Nkuna’s Amandla Ilizwe i’Afrika, Sifiso Ka Nkame’s Open Letters for our Children and Richars Mudariki’s The Model;  to the conceptually trenchant such as selection from  Willem Boshoff’s, Blind Alphabeth B, Kendell Geers’s Lovers or Frans Thoka’s Moipolai Ga llelwe, Sello Sa Gagwe ke Moropa.

The Re Mmôgô exhibition presents more than 100 works by a selection of South Africa’s best-known artists from two of the country’s celebrated corporate art collections. A visual feast of superbly executed works in traditional media as well as conceptually challenging installations which are contemporary as the day they were made.  From Avant Car Guard to Michael Zondi, experiencing this exhibition provides a perspective on what is truly “contemporary” in the South African art world today.

Re Mmôgô (We are Together) Selections from the Sanlam and MTN Art Collections shown together is on at the Sanlam Art Gallery until 26 May 2023.  Viewing Monday to Friday 09:00 to 16:30. Other times and guided tours of this exhibition and the Sanlam Art Collection can be arranged with the curator.  Entry is free.

Yinka Shonibare 1962 – Diary of a Victorian Dandy: 14h00 Hours 1998 C-type print MTN Art Collection



Frans Moshimanyana Thoka 1997 – Moipolai Ga llelwe, Sello Sa Gagwe ke Moropa 2019 oil on “prison” blanket Sanlam Art Collection


Sfiso Ka Mkame 1963 – Open Letters for our Children 1988 pastel and wax crayon on paper MTN Art Collection


William Kentridge 1955 – The Battle between Yes and No 1987 screenprint on paper MTN Art Collection


Simon Moroke Lekgetho 1929 – 1985 Self Portrait circa 1960 oil on paper Sanlam Art Collection

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