The Friends of Johannesburg Art Gallery (FOJ) was formalised in 1973 when its Articles of Association as a Not for Gain Company was lodged.
This formalisation was spearheaded by two very powerful women, Dr Thelma Gutsche and Mrs Hettie Finger. There had always been a long tradition of support for the Johannesburg Art Gallery (JAG), but this was a giant leap forward towards involving like minded people with the purpose of the promotion and funding of this important cultural institution. Fundraising was one of the objectives. This involved many diverse events, as well as selling memberships to individuals. Bringing FOJ into the new digital space was the initiative of Fashion Designer, Marianne Fassler and Brand Architect, Eben Keun, of Breinstorm Brand Architects. It is now possible to become a Friend online at www.friendsofjag.org and to interact with the Museum and its events through Facebook and Instagram #friendsofjag or Johannesburg Art Gallery on Facebook and on Twitter. As such, Friends of JAG represent an essential partnership with the City of Joburg (COJ) and JAG. It can fundraise and motivate larger projects that the COJ is unable to fund. The Friends can initiate events and activities, activate communications and lobby for additional funding. Most major museums, including MOMA, Royal Academy, Metropolitan, Rijksmuseum and many others, depend on funding sourced from their Friends organisations. FOJ is the only way that JAG can access corporates as well as small businesses and benefactors or individuals. We are determined to make a huge difference with the help of our Financial Director and mentor with the longest institutional memory, Jack Ginsberg.
What will be the focus of your stand at FNB JoburgArtFair and how do you aim to use it as a ‘platform’ for artists?
We will be looking forward to 2040, in fact – the year that government has identified as a deadline for the development of the JAG and Joubert Park precinct. We will take this virtual journey in partnership with Cuss, the Johannesburg-based artist group founded by Ravi Govender, Jamal Nxedlana, Zamani Xolo and Lex Trickett. ‘The collective responds to commercial, cultural and technological super-hybridity through the filter of urban trends, material artefacts, and youth culture in contemporary post-post-colonial South Africa.’
For the FNB JoburgArtFair, Cuss will create a digital interactive experience around JAG and its collection. With a heritage audit of the JAG building nearing completion and the prospect of fruitful collaboration with a new City Government dispensation dedicated to heritage and the arts, the 2040 vision for JAG may indeed become true even before then.
Why is exposure at a fair of this calibre so important for artists? What role do fairs play?
The FNB JoburgArtFair mandate has long been to become a catalyst for the local creative economy. In that sense, it has reiterated the value of art and the arts sector over the past years of its existence. In more recent years, it has also become a space where the public and local artists can get exposure to artists from other parts of the continent who exhibit in South Africa less frequently.
What role does your organisation play as a ‘platform’ for artists? What positive outcomes have you seen from your current projects?
JAG’s heritage lies in its collection and the illustrious lineup of artists, both local and international, who have exhibited there over the decades. We are very proud of the art we have managed to showcase, even in times when resources were thin on the ground. Our autumn exhibition, Ângela Ferreira’s South Facing, has received broad local and international coverage and reviews, and we hope to build on this momentum. JAG’s own collection is gaining increasing international interest, with works travelling to prestigious institutions beyond our borders on a regular basis.
What are your organisation’s plans for the rest of 2017 and 2018?
We have a strong lineup of fully funded exhibitions going forward in 2017/18. We will be communicating these exhibitions and linked functions and activations to our Friends and on our online platforms. Currently on at JAG is Labour of Love, an exhibition of South African art from the collection of the Weltkulturen Museum in Frankfurt, that has not been seen in South Africa before. The exhibition is comprised of works produced in the 1980s by black South African artists, including internationally renowned figures such as Peter Clarke, Lionel Davis, David Koloane, together with 20 new artistic productions by Sam Nhlengethwa. The exhibition also integrates a contemporary perspective on the original Weltkulturen Museum collection through new works produced by Gabi Ngcobo and four young South African artists who engaged with the collection and its specific history over a number of weeks in 2014.
What are you most looking forward to at this year’s FNB JoburgArtFair?
We are looking forward to the wonderful art and creative atmosphere, and meeting up with old and new Friends of JAG.
Have a look at the FNB JoburgArtFair Platforms here:Friends of the Johannesburg Art Gallery The Market Photo Workshop Artist Proof Studio The Bag Factory Artists’ Studios NWU Gallery M Studio Community SA Mint Kuenyehia Trust For Contemporary Art Orange Babies