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Standard Bank’s New Acquisitions

Standard Bank
Hasan and Husain Essop, Cape Town (South Africa) Variation, 2009

New Acquisitions: Standard Bank Corporate Collection is currently on at the Standard Bank Gallery in Johannesburg, and runs until 14 December 2017.

The exhibition includes works par excellence by some of South Africa’s leading contemporary artists. The Standard Bank Corporate Collection boasts some impressive numbers: it includes more than 1 200 works by over 250 South African artists. Given the size and scope of the Collection, it is not surprising that the diversity of South African art, both ‘historical’ and ‘contemporary’, is represented. New Acquisitions, an exhibition of artworks recently added to the Collection, condenses that variety.

Most of the pieces on display were completed in the last decade or so, but two notable exceptions are Job Kekana’s Madonna and Child (1938) and John Koenakeefe Mohl’s Sophiatown (c.1946). Steven Cohen’s untitled hand-coloured silkscreen print (c.1985) emerged during the states of emergency that marked the final years of the apartheid regime. A number of the more recent works participate, deliberately or coincidentally, in a ‘conversation with the past’ – from Haroon Gunn-Salie’s bronze cast Sunday Best (2014), which invokes the forced removals from District Six in the 1970s, to Joni Brenner’s painting of the 300 million-year-old Taung skull. Claudette Schreuders’ sculpture Eclipse (2008) presents a mother-and-child pairing to echo Kekana’s, while Michelle Mathison’s Breaking Ground (2014) may put some visitors in mind of Gerard Sekoto’s iconic 1947 painting Song of the Pick. Experimentation in portraiture and self-portraiture, as well as in different methods of conveying the dynamic human form, connects the work of Lisa Brice, Churchill Madikida, Diane Victor, Paul Emmanuel and the Essop brothers, Hasan and Husain. Ghana’s Owusu-Ankoma and Zimbabwean artist Kudzanai Chiurai offer perspectives from elsewhere on the African continent.

Standard Bank
Diane Victor, Blind Faith, 2013

Standard Bank is strongly associated with arts sponsorship. Their art portfolio includes the National Art Festival, Standard Bank Jazz, Standard Bank Young Artist Awards, Standard Bank African Art Collection and, of course, the Standard Bank Gallery. This exhibition gives visitors an insight into one aspect of the Bank’s commitment to the arts but also presents an opportunity to reflect more generally on the complex dynamics of arts patronage. Why do we value the arts – and can we put a price tag on this value? What motivates companies, individuals and state institutions to sponsor an art project or to purchase works of art? What are the advantages and risks of such an investment, and what kinds of responsibility come with it? The Standard Bank Corporate Collection is displayed at Standard Bank premises around the country as well as in London and New York, but as curator Barbara Freemantle observes, ‘The role of art is not only to enhance a work environment but also to contribute to our understanding of ourselves, collectively and individually, by exploring our identities, histories, hopes and fears.’

Standard Bank
Michele Mathison, Breaking Ground, 2014

The Standard Bank Gallery is located on the corner of Simmonds and Frederick streets in central Johannesburg and offers free, safe undercover parking on the corner of Harrison and Frederick streets. Gallery hours: Mondays to Fridays from 08:00 to 16:30, and Saturdays from 09:00 to 13:00. Entrance to the exhibition is free.

The Standard Bank Gallery will be open until 20:00 for First Thursdays on 6 April. For further info, please contact 011 631 4467

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