In a bold affirmation to its on-going commitment to education, Strauss & Co recently announced the launch of a comprehensive new book and exhibition devoted to the sculptors Sydney Kumalo and Ezrom Legae.
Published by Strauss & Co on a not-for-profit basis, The Sculptures of Sydney Kumalo and Ezrom Legae is a detailed catalogue raisonné documenting all the known work produced by Kumalo and Legae, two formidable mid-century sculptors.
Written and researched by Gavin Watkins and Charles Skinner, the 656-page book includes over 1 100 archival and contemporary photographs and retails at R4 025 (VAT inclusive). On the occasion of the launch of this landmark book, Strauss & Co is hosting a retrospective exhibition of 92 sculptures by Sydney Kumalo and Ezrom Legae at its Johannesburg premises from 19 June to 28 July 2023.
The exhibition features a substantial number of works documented in the catalogue raisonné: 60 of the 125 sculptures attributed to Kumalo, and 32 of the 55 sculptures credited to Legae. A vibrant programme of public events is also planned, including author engagements, scholarly lectures, teacher training initiatives and walkabouts.
“Serious scholarship needs patronage, and Strauss & Co is pleased to support this book which is a culmination of indefatigable research by Gavin Watkins and Charles Skinner, compiling an exhaustive catalogue of all the sculptures of Sydney Kumalo and Ezrom Legae,” says Wilhelm van Rensburg, Head Curator & Senior Art Specialist, Strauss & Co.
“The Sculptures of Sydney Kumalo and Ezrom Legae is an indispensable resource for future researchers in the field of black modernist artists in South Africa, as well as for students, collectors and art lovers in general. The catalogue raisonné is a major restatement of the careers and peak output of Sydney Kumalo and Ezrom Legae. To celebrate this outstanding book, Strauss & Co is presenting a comprehensive retrospective exhibition showcasing 60 Kumalo sculptures and 32 Legae sculptures,” says van Rensburg.
Points of origin
The outcome of decades of research, The Sculptures of Sydney Kumalo and Ezrom Legae has its origins in a meeting between collector Gavin Watkins and art dealer Egon Guenther in the 1990s Johannesburg. Guenther was Kumalo and Legae’s earliest and most important promoter in the 1960s. Spurred on by his meeting with Guenther, Watkins began to collect works by Kumalo and Legae.
In 2003, dismayed at the incomplete and anecdotal information around the artists, Watkins began a self-directed project to create a catalogue raisonné of their sculptures. In 2019, Watkins met collector Charles Skinner at the retrospective exhibition for sculptor Peter Haden, Almost Forgotten, which he curated in association with Strauss & Co. The two collectors, Gavin Watkins and Charles Skinner, discovered their mutual interest in Kumalo and Legae, and decided to collaborate on the catalogue raisonné until its completion.
“We are delighted to have extended our commitment to art education by publishing The Sculptures of Sydney Kumalo and Ezrom Legae, a monumental book that has been ably written and researched by Gavin Watkins and Charles Skinner, and beautifully designed by Kevin Shenton,” says Frank Kilbourn, Chairperson, Strauss & Co. “This detailed catalogue raisonné will add depth and insight to the rapid increase in appreciation and values of these important South African modernist sculptors.”
Strauss & Co is hosting a programme of events at its gallery and saleroom in 89 Central Street, Houghton, Johannesburg to coincide with the launch of The Sculptures of Sydney Kumalo and Ezrom Legae and related retrospective exhibition.
Upcoming highlights include:
Thursday, 20 July from 18:00 to 19:00: Public lecture by art historian Anitra Nettleton on the sculptures of Sydney Kumalo.
Saturday, 29 July from 10:00 to 13:00: Artist Diane Victor will present a master class on drawing sculptures.
Strauss & Co will also host in-service and pre-service teacher workshops focussing on Kumalo and Legae, on Wednesday, 26 July. These workshops are aimed at enriching teacher understanding of Kumalo and Legae, whose work appears in the national art curriculum for secondary schools.
Starting on Wednesday, 28 June, every Wednesday between 11:00 and 12:00, Strauss & Co specialists will present a walkabout of the exhibition. The July walkabouts are scheduled for 5 July, 12 July and 18 July. On Tuesday, 4 July from 11:00 to 12:00, Strauss & Co will host the University of the Third Age.