How South African artwork is becoming popular these days

With an avant-tarde museum that is the largest public art space to reveal the continent for more than 100 years, annual art fairs in Johannesburg and Cape Town, and dynamic gallery scenarios that have been progressivelyincreasing for the last decade, South Africa has become the continent’s art and design center. In comparison to art hubssuch as Dakar, Senegal, or Lagos, Nigeria, where West African pros have had a quitebigger presence thanks to closeness to Europe, and a result of the worldwide boycott of South Africa’s economy and culture due to apartheid that ended in 1994, the nation has had to play catch up. Since that time, its market has become more expert, with increasing numbers of commercial galleries that are more visible at international art and design fairs, and museums and gatherersregionally and globally increasingly gaining South African artwork and design.

There have been almost twenty years of democracy in South Africa, yet increasing anger and violent unsatisfaction lay unadorned continuing inequity. It is opportune to ask the query: can South Africans actually be friendly about how meaningful the transformation from domineering political and economic structures has been? Does the inclination towards neo-liberalism and capitalism in South Africa’s post-Apartheid democracy enable actual change? Where economic disparity and spatial separations still persist and, indeed, are actively reproduced by current market forces, can South Africans really create inclusive and integrative spaces? The Art of Change: Perspectives on Transformation in South Africa confronts some of these concerns, re-schedulingdiscussions and promoting reflection on cultural subtleties in South Africa during the last twenty years.

The pomposity that categorized the first decade of democracy covered the fact that the material conditions developed through Apartheid did not alter majorly enough to cause a common fate and shared space for its diverse constituents. When the book 10 Years, 100 Artists: Art in a Democratic South Africa was published in 2004, it not only provided an important survey of art in the first decade of formal democracy but also drew attention to the fact that, although there had been an important shift, the power relations that were produced through colonialism and Apartheid remained.1 For Sophie Perryer ‘persistent inequities reveal[ed] a continuing need for transformation’.2 Moreover, the rise of biennales and large-scale international exhibitions during the first decade provided beneficial exposure. This also coincided with the notion that black South African artists were now ‘freed’ from ‘the imperative to make work in response to the socio-political conditions of apartheid in South Africa’, and turn to the emergence of concerns with complex issues often related to separate identity. But this premature closure of the ‘apartheid burden on the artist’ can be a setback when the caged life of the majority in black township spaces continues and remains a figure for inferiority. The remainingsentimentality is that considerable transformation cannot be done if the control of resources stays in the hands of a few.

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