Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Pros and Cons of NAF appointment as curators of Venice Biennale

South Africa will be participating in the Venice Biennale this year. In pursuit of a balanced analysis of the National Arts Festival’s organisers’ appointment as the curators of the 55th La Biennale di Venezia, I’ve decided to draw up a list of pros and cons to assess how beneficial this decision will be for the visual arts community;


  1.  The organisers behind the NAF have a proven track record in terms of managing finances and implementing large events
  2.  Pather has proven to be visionary and a strong curator. Initiating new events - the Live Art Festival  among driving a host of progressive and interesting colloquiums at Gipca - curating that event and Infecting the City in Cape Town.
  3. With Pather on the team we can be certain that performance artists will be included
  4. None of the team, nor the curators are affiliated to any commercial gallery, so no commercial agenda is likely to be served
  5. As far as we can gather, their appointment followed from an ethical and fair procedure


  1.  One of the defining aspects of the National Arts Festival has been the marginalisation of the visual arts coupled with an inability to curate the main or fringe programmes attached to that festival
  2.  As the judges of the Standard Bank Young Artist Awards the organisers have consistently played it safe. In other words their decisions thus far hasn’t shown them to be ‘plugged in’ to the contemporary art scene – they tend to acknowledge those who have already made a name for themselves
  3. In their capacity as judges for the Standard Bank Young Artist for the visual arts they tend to select artists galleries are promoting, so they do indirectly advance commercial interests
  4. Securing this appointment further cements the NAF team as gatekeepers to the arts; they decide which artists show at the annual event in Grahamstown, they decide who the next Standard Bank Young Artist should be, and now, have the power to determine how SA contemporary art is represented at Venice. It is never good for one group of individuals to wield this amount of authority
  5. Aside from Pather none of the members of this team have a strong record curating visual arts exhibitions in this country or abroad