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Thursday, February 28, 2013


The National Arts Festival, Grahamstown has expressed its delight at being chosen to curate and stage the South African exhibition at the 55th La Biennale di Venezia, saying that it would embark on the project with the best interests of our country’s artists at heart.

Acknowledging this event as the “world’s premiere showcase for the contemporary visual arts”, Festival CEO Tony Lankester said that participation in the La Biennale di Venezia was something that all artists should aspire to.“Venice is arguably the most prestigious and well-established visual arts showcase in the world, and having their work shown there is a major opportunity for our artists to get global exposure,” he said.

The choice of the National Arts Festival as curator was announced by the Department of Arts and Culture today at the end of a public process in which proposals were sought from parties wishing to lead the process.

“We submitted a proposal to the Department and we’re delighted that they have bought into the curatorial vision we expressed,” Lankester said. “In putting the proposal together we drew on the expertise of Brenton Maart, who will be the exhibition curator, and his colleagues from our Festival Artistic Committee – Nomusa Makhubu, Dominic Thorburn, Brett Bailey and Jay Pather. Together this team will now refine the idea behind the exhibition, and bring it to life through the work of an array of local artists.”

The theme and concepts underpinning the exhibition to be mounted on the South African Pavilion will be unveiled to the public once this process of refinement is complete.

Lankester, who is currently chair of the World Fringe Alliance and Treasurer of the African Festival Network, stressed the importance of global exposure for South Africa’s artists: “A platform like this is an important part of their growth as makers of art, and it enriches the perspective they bring to their work. It is also a step toward establishing their names and reputations in the global arts market and getting due recognition and reward for their talent.”

Since its inception in 1974, the Festival has staged thousands of exhibitions – ranging from the work of our country’s crafters and ‘hobbyist’ artists, through to the giants of South African art. Its Main programme alone has seen 301 exhibitions since inception while, in a typical year, the Festival hosts around 60 Fringe exhibitions across the City of Grahamstown. The Festival has partnered with South Africa’s leading galleries and with international partners, including SA National Gallery, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Art Museum, Johannesburg Art Gallery, Fort Hare, Durban Art Museum, Wits University Galleries, Goodman Gallery, Pretoria Art Museum, Oliewenhuis Art Museum, Stellenbosch University, Caversham Press, the French Institute of South Africa (IFAS), and the Goethe-Institut.
Some of the artists featured in Grahamstown over the years: William Kentridge, Cecil Skotnes, David Goldblatt, Robert Hodgins, Pierneef, John Muafangelo, Edoardo Villa, Maggie Laubsher, Azaria Mbatha, Neville Dubow, Penny Siopis, Irma Stern, Gerard Sekoto, Karel Nel, Philippa Hobbs, Walter Battiss, Willie Bester, Sue Williamson, Durant Sihlali, Ken Oosterbroek, Mashego Johannes Segogela, Deborah Bell, George Pemba and Paul Emmanuel.

Standard Bank Young Artist Award winners for Visual Arts: Mary Sibande (2013), Mikhael Subotzky (2012), Nandipha Mntambo (2011), Michael MacGarry (2010), Nicholas Hlobo (2009), Nontsikelelo Veleko (2008), Pieter Hugo (2007), Churchill Madikida (2006), Wim Botha (2005), Kathryn Smith (2004), Berni Searle (2003), Brett Murray (2002), Walter Oltmann (2001), Alan Alborough (2000), Nhlanhla Xaba (1998), Lien Botha (1997), Trevor Makhoba (1996), Jane Alexander (1995), Sam Nhlengethwa (1994), Pippa Skotnes (1993), Tommy Motswai (1992), Andries Botha (1991), Fée Halsted-Berning and Bonnie Ntshalintshali (1990), Helen Sebidi (1989), Margaret Vorster (1988), William Kentridge (1987), Gavin Younge (1986), Marion Arnold (1985), Peter Schultz (1984), Malcolm Payne (1983), Neil Rodger (1982), Jules van de Vijver (1981).

The 55th International Art Exhibition will take place in Venice from June 1 to November 24, 2013. The title chosen by Exhibition Director Massimiliano Gioni for the 55th Biennale is Il Palazzo Enciclopedico / The Encyclopaedic Palace.

The National Arts Festival is sponsored by Standard Bank, The National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund, Eastern Cape Government, Department of Arts and Culture, City Press and M Net.