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The Big Picture

The Big Picture: An Art-O-Biography | By Natalie Knight | Publisher: Batya Bricker | ISBN: 9780620757331

Natalie Knight

The Big Picture is Natalie Knight’s Art-O-Biography – part memoir, part art history – filled with beautiful art images, society photos of the time and the stories behind many of the pieces she sold. Her resume is impressive, but that’s not really what has impressed me. Natalie Knight seems to have had it all. Modern women are warned that you can’t have it all, or at the very least, you can’t have it all at once. But Natalie seems to have done just that: she’s had a full career; she has a full family life; a full spiritual life. Recipient of the Lifetime Achiever Award for Africa for contribution to Arts and Culture, Natalie Knight is renowned as a collector and documenter of Ndebele and Shangaan art. At the Natalie Knight Gallery in Hyde Park (1980-1995), a cultural institution, she exhibited international art and promoted little-known black artists who have now made names for themselves. She has written and/or edited several art books, curated several shows to celebrate Nelson Mandela and served as art curator at Wits on the West Campus for four years. The Knight/Priebatsch Ndebele collection has been sourced for major international exhibitions and catalogues. Items are represented all over the world from the Wits Art Museum, South Africa; British Museum, London; Israel Museum, Jerusalem; Canada and the USA. In 2014, Natalie and Suzanne donated their extensive collection of slides which documented their travels in Kwandebele research to the archives of the African Art Museum in the Smithsonian Institution. There were 1 300 slides from the mid-1970s and these have been installed on their website, accessible to academics and lay people all over the world. By her own admission, Natalie is not a perfectionist. And perhaps this insight is the key. Try your best, do your best, and if the result is not perfect, it doesn’t really matter. You are only human. It means that you will try and fail. But it also means that you could very well try and achieve. Not being precious about perfection is liberating. Freeing you from the anxiety of getting it right the first time means you can try your hand at almost anything. You can view everything as a learning experience. It’s not all that serious! For Natalie, that approach has meant some serious achievement.

Natalie Knight

There must have been times in her life where one aspect – career, self-fulfilment and family – outweighed all others, or one part suffered for the sake of another. In remembering, Natalie has most likely romanticised those sacrifices or dismissed the things that might have suffered. There is an opportunity cost for everything. But in the final reckoning, and over a stretch of time, you want to be able to say that overall, looking at the big picture, the result is harmonious and of the best possible quality. You want to look back at your life with satisfaction, and if you are lucky, with awe. Natalie can do that. And perhaps that’s the other secret. Get Natalie talking about art and the career that became her vocation, and Natalie gets an almost child-like twinkle in her eye. In her book Thrive, Arianna Huffington, the co-founder and editor-in-chief of the Huffington Post, and one of the most influential women in the world, cites ‘wonder’ as one of the fundamental ingredients to a happy and fulfilled life. And wonder is contagious. You can’t help but get swept up in Natalie’s enthusiasm, and you leave her company inspired and excited to transform your life’s work into a masterpiece. By all accounts, Natalie could now be content to ‘wind down’, and yet she exudes a sense that the best is yet to come. It has been a privilege collaborating with Natalie on this project of words, art and meaning, and we know that you, the reader will relish every page.

Introduction to The Big Picture, Batya Bricker, March 2017

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