Wednesday, October 27, 2010

OMG: Who is buying this kind of art?

It is hard for me to decide what is worse: that there are still artists producing romanticised images of Africa or that these images are being sold in Africa? It would be easy to mistake the above painting to have been produced somewhere in the 1800s but, regrettably, this is a present-day rendering by a Danish Artist called Paul Augustinus whose exhibition of paintings will open at the Everard Read Gallery next week. This is not an extraordinary event; I have received number of invitations from this well-established gallery that have evoked a sense of déjà vu of the worst kind. The question that this phenomenon begs is this: how educated are the buyers of South African art in this country and what is the consequence of this for artists? Could this be why Strauss & Co continue to flog Pierneefs instead of MacGarrys or Hlobos?    

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hi Mary. I am the Curator at the US Art Gallery and also Media Liaison for the University of Stellenbosch Art Museum. Could you please send me an email address where I can email invitations to our exhibitions to you? It would be great if you could come and review some of them. We have a rather well-named exhibition coming up in November, Marlene Dumas is participating and opening the event. Hope to hear from you soon. Corlia Harmsen. corliah@sun.ac.za.

Anonymous said...

Be careful Mary, its one thing to be an art critic but quite another to be the arbiter of taste.

If your objection is that there is 'better' art to be seen then you need to make the case.

Saying something is bad without context is simply stating your personal dislike of a perfectly legitimate art form.

I would buy it.

Ritz Britz said...

As societies develop tastes change. I am of the opinion that such paintings perpetuate poor taste.

Mary Corrigall said...

As a critic every opinion I share is to some degree a matter of personal taste - albeit an informed one and not simply based on intuition. To expect it to be otherwise would be naive. That said my disdain for this kind of art is not informed by my own idiosyncratic view but is based on a wideheld opinion regarding the representation of Africa by Europeans. I imagine that if any literary critic encountered a contemporary rendition of Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness they too would be suprised that an historical viewpoint is still being played out in modern times and finds a market.

Anonymous said...

Where does the value in this kind of art lie?
In its immediate emotional appeal for some people and perhaps in its display of skill. The emotional appeal is to the feeling of nostalgia: a longing for a utopia that is different to present circumstance; as well as the need for self-affirmation in terms of status: owning "an original oil painting" is like driving an unnecesarily expensive car. It's about conspicuous consumption.

The high prices paid for this kind of art are a sign of the intensity of feelings of longing to be in a place different to the buyer's current situation; as well as the intensity of the need for self affirmation as a person of status.

The show of skill demonstrated by the painter resonates with the belief in the importance of skills for success in many aspects of life including sporting prowess, business acumen, the ability to market a product or place so as to make it appear more desirable than it really is...

I think that's what its all about.