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The new auction house on the block: Aspire Art Auctions

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Last month, Mary-Jane Darroll (former Curator of the Standard Bank Gallery and Corporate Collection) and Ruarc Peffers (recent Senior Art Specialist and auctioneer at Strauss & Co.) introduced their new auctioneering firm, Aspire Art Auctions, to the South African market. They are now pleased to introduce their partners; Emma Bedford and Jacqui Carney. This powerhouse of art specialists collectively offers in excess of eighty years’ experience in the art industry, and through Aspire Art Auctions intend to focus on the promotion of fine arts, both locally and abroad.

'Noka Ya Bokamoso': Lerato Shadi at the Grahamstown National Arts Festival, by Khehla Chepape Makgato

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Dressed in black with glasses set before her eyes, Lerato Shadi is sitting on a four legged chair – body tranquil, legs crossed – her fingers moving and weaving from what looks like a red woolen ball – transforming it into what appears to be a red carpet. Lerato means ‘Love’ and no doubt she is using the colour red as a metaphor that drives her exhibition theme. ‘Noka Ya Bokamoso’ is a Tswana saying for ‘River Of The Future.’ This exhibition, curated by Joan Legalamitlwa, is effervescence of the live performance – and includes other mediums such as video installations and drawings.

'Filming But Drowning': Gordon Glyn-Jones In Conversation with Gideon Mendel

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In the coffee-table-canon of revered South African photographers, a few names regularly float to the surface: Goldblatt, Mthethwa, Oberholzer and so on. With the international recognition for his series ‘Drowning World,’ Gideon Mendel finally edges into their ranks. This year he’s been Shortlisted for the Prix Pictet, won the Jackson Pollock Award and Axis Gallery will host a solo show of his work at 1:54 London. Gordon Glyn-Jones discusses Mendel’s ‘Drowning World’ and his new series ‘Watermarks’ which breathes new life into flood damaged photographs.

'Captured': Seán Slemon at Mariane Ibrahim Gallery, Seattle, by T.s. Flock

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At a glance, Seán Slemon’s new works at Mariane Ibrahim Gallery might seem a bit disconnected from each other: a trio of aquatints, a slanted ray of polished steel panels and two tree remnants covered in gold foil. One of the trees is suspended near the gallery entrance, more or less parallel to the floor, and makes such a grand impression that the rest might seem like afterthoughts. There is, however, a unifying logic to it, one that is enriched by the ambiguity of the content and optical tricks that Slemon plays in each individual work.

'On Migration and Materiality in Ireland's 'Post-Colonial' Biennial' by Allison K. Young

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At the turn of the twentieth century, the Greek poet Constantine P. Cavafy was living in Alexandria, Egypt – then under British rule – when he penned a poem titled Waiting for the Barbarians (written in 1898, published in 1904). The poem’s subject is seemingly antiquarian – it invokes the edgling democracies of ancient Greece and Rome – but its political import was as relevant to Cavafy’s time as it is today. It tells of a despondent government that refuses to make progress, paralysed by anticipation of a fabled Barbarian invasion, which never happens. Cavafy muses on the causes and consequences of political inaction as well as the tendency for communities to self-define only in relation to a perceived ‘Other.’ “Now what’s going to happen to us without barbarians?” the narrator pleads, “Those people were a kind of solution.” 

'Us and Them: The Killer of the World' by Ashraf Jamal

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Over a year has passed since the Rhodes Must Fall (#RhodesMustFall) movement was incepted into the national psyche. Such has been the power of this student-led movement that it has come to define the very nature of contemporary political, socio-economic and cultural struggle.

'_REALITY CHECK_': Janet Ranson at AVA Gallery, Cape Town

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Held at the AVA Gallery in Cape Town, Janet Ranson's current exhibition, '_REALITY CHECK_' provides a sensory and intimate portrait of the artist's relation to the world-at-large. "Rescued natural debris, from South Africa's Karoo shrubs to Korean seaweed, are returned to the Long Gallery at the AVA as objects of interest, beauty and complexity," writes Cape Town-based artist Rose Gelderblom-Waddilove.

Hugh Byrne: Urban Architecture and the Everyday

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Inspired by urban architecture, Hugh Byrne’s latest body of work (which will be on show at the Turbine Art Fair (Johannesburg) from 14th - 17th July) uses painting and sculpture to elicit a sensory response to the subliminal effects of our built environment. “Through my art, I try to interpret and present observations of my surroundings, of things many people would consider to be mundane,” says Byrne, “but the point is not for viewers to be able to visualise the same cityscape or architectural elements that inspired me… If my art elicits some kind of emotional response, then I feel I have been successful.”

'Myth-Making, Space-Shifting': ruby onyinyechi amanze on hybridity, 'Africanness' and paper

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Myth, memory, folklore, history – all potent territories of intersection between truth and untruth. Can they be teased apart? Should they be? Is mythological-realism the ultimate love letter to the hybrid nature of our modern lives, constantly twisting and shape-shifting nebulously, on and on? The work of artist ruby onyinyechi amanze climbs directly into these spaces of ambiguity and revels in the freedom to play indefinitely, with form, character and place. ART AFRICA spoke to amanze about her practice, her personal myth making and what it means to her to be an ‘African’ artist today. 

'If I Can Make It There...' Valerie Kabov explores some of the emergent themes of the African presence at art fairs abroad

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These days, reading art press is a perilous exercise for the fact seeker. Given that most (if not all) popular publishing platforms rely on advertising or non-reader driven funding, fact is often coloured by obligations to those who hold the money. Moreover, in an industry where perception has a far higher impact on price and market making, good PR is everything. With so much money at stake, the easiest path to securing a chorus of approval is via the channels and players who acknowledge the importance of these structures, not only in general but also in the context of their own practice.

'Self-definition Through Time:' Zoltán Somhegyi reviews 'The Time is Out of Joint' and 'Two Suns in a Sunset' at the Sharjah Art Foundation, UAE

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Is it past and future or, perhaps, continuous present? Former events influence our today and shape our tomorrow. This fluidity of temporal perspectives results in the phenomenon whereby the reflection of real events has an impact on the potential future. The future is thus always imaginary, since we can never fully define and predict our destiny. What is less obvious, however, is that the past itself is just as unknown as the future. Therefore, imagination, as well as the fertile mixture of real and fictitious, can be an important element not only in our expectation of the future but in our understanding of the past too.

Vortex, Inc Nigeria: Somto Ajuluchukwu talks African comic culture with Su Opperman

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Meet Vortex, Inc. Homebrewed in Lagos, Nigeria, this creative content and entertainment company is changing the face of African comic production. Through Vortex, African culture finds unique expression predominantly through the iconic visual language of the comic book. Galvanising the continent by exporting African stories made by African creators to a broader audience, Vortex publishes stories that are abundantly spiced with the distinct flavour of the Motherland.

'Sacred Spaces,' Bright Young Thing: Mathias Chirombo

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“Art to me is an anecdote of the spirit, and the only means of making concrete the purpose of its varied quickness and stillness.” - Mark Rothko 

There’s something incredibly captivating about Mathias Chirombo’s work. Standing up close to his large scale painting Death of the Mermaid III (2013), I am struck by an overwhelming sense of silence. This world – deep, pulsating, blue – stretches out around me, pulling me in. Spellbound, I take a step back, curious as to how I got here. Interestingly, it is the work and words of Mark Rothko that I am inclined to fall back on. 

'...when they grow up...': Ebony G. Patterson at the Studio Museum Harlem, by Robin Scher

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A physical frequency can be felt walking into Ebony G. Patterson’s on-site installation ‘...when they grow up…’ at the Studio Museum in Harlem. Maybe this feeling is a result of the hot pink, plush carpeting or the two hundred patterned, fabric covered balloons hanging from the roof? It could also be the sudden wave of nostalgia upon entering a room scattered with familiar childhood objects. On closer inspection, the static sensation might have to do with the carefully placed human subjects: blown-up photographs of black children within a brightly coloured collage.

Borders-Within: The Trans-Nigerian Road Trip

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“A border is the declaration of an end to a thought. But nothing undermines a border like movement — to move is to shift the full-stop in a conversation.” This sentence was penned by Yinka Elujoba, one of ten participants in Invisible Borders’ latest endeavour — Borders-Within: The Trans-Nigerian Roadtrip. Beginning on the 12th May 2016 in Lagos, Borders-Within have since been weaving their way through the country, producing an intricate storyboard of images and text that, through personal engagement, reflect the stories of those they meet, whilst unpacking their own subjectivities within this complex pool of post-colonial narrative. 

'Categorically Speaking' By Valerie Kabov

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"The terms ‘Africa’ and ‘African diaspora’ appear to sit neatly side by side, certainly when it comes to genre categorisations in contemporary art. Whole institutions are devoted to the very subject, such as MoCADA (Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Art, New York). In the USA, it is the institutions devoted to African American art that have taken the lead in engaging with African contemporary art. This makes sense on many easily apprehended levels: shared (racial) history, similar histories of oppression and the struggle against it. While the relationship is very real and important, it defies the ideas of category merge, in which all segments are presented as part of a catchall," writes Valerie Kabov in this positioning piece for the latest installment of ART AFRICA, 'The North American Issue'.

Lionel Smit unveils 'MORPHOUS' in Union Square, New York

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MORPHOUS, a double-headed bronze sculpture by South African artist Lionel Smit, will be installed in Union Square, New York from June 13, 2016 through April 30, 2017. Brought together in collaboration with Cynthia Reeves, NYC Parks, the Union Square Partnership, and Art Miami / Art New York, this will be the artist’s first public art installation in the United States, and will be complemented by an exhibition of his work at Cynthia-Reeves Gallery venue from July-August 2016. 

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