The development of South African art and its artists owes a great deal to the longstanding presence of its nationwide art competitions. Competitions for emerging and established artists help the country to take stock of its many art-makers, and they also serve to motivate and challenge the country’s artists to push their practice further and create new work. One such competition is the annual Sasol New Signatures Art Competition.
Currently celebrating its 30th year with Sasol as the headline sponsor of the competition, the Sasol New Signatures Art Competition has a long and rich history of promoting the arts in South Africa. Being the longest running competition of its kind in SA, Sasol New Signatures has, over the years, provided a platform for unknown artists to break into the mainstream. ‘Unknown’ here refers to those artists who are over the age of 18 and have yet to hold a solo exhibition. In this way, the annual competition sees countless submissions from university students and working artists alike, submitting new and innovative work across the mediums of drawing, painting, sculpture, photography, performance art, video works, installations and more.
Each year, after receiving and judging works from artists across the country, the Sasol New Signatures Art Competition announces a winner of the competition who receives a cash prize as well as a solo show at next year’s exhibition. A runner-up and the five merit award winners are also awarded cash prizes and are exhibited alongside the competition’s finalists at the Pretoria Art Museum. The status of the Sasol New Signatures Art Competition as one of the biggest national art competitions in SA, as well as the track record of its winning artists over the years, also means that prize winners and finalists alike can benefit hugely from having their work featured in the exhibition.
Vice Chairperson of the Sasol New Signatures Art Competition Pfunzo Sidogi reveals that during its formative years, the competition had ignited something of a friendly rivalry between the various university-based art schools in the Gauteng region, with each institution vying for bragging rights over who would produce the winning artist.
‘But more significant than this grandstanding opportunity, the true value of the competition for the universities during the 1960s, ‘70s, and beyond was that it gave their students (and by extension staff) an opportunity to gauge their work against other marquee art schools – initially within Gauteng only, but later throughout the country,’ explains Sidogi. ‘Thus, the New Signatures competition contributed, albeit indirectly, to the growth and development of these aforementioned art academies, and the professionalisation of the local art industry at large.’
To read more about the history of Sasol New Signatures, purchase the May 2019 issue of Creative Feel or, to continue supporting our role in the South African arts and culture industry, subscribe to our monthly magazine from only R180.00 per year. SUBSCRIBE HERE!