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Another year of art - Best of 2015

Once a year I get to be the messenger of upbeat art news when I compile the annual best-of list. And yes, theoretically-speaking there is no such thing as “bad” art and retrospective analysis is never as sharp as pronouncements made in the heat of the moment but I enjoy spreading a bit of art-feel-good-ness once a year. While reviewing my Instagram account, which has fast become the most reliable record of my gallery crawls, I was surprised to discover how much art I enjoyed last year. As always I did not get to write about it all; it is impossible given time constraints and the fact that I have A LIFE (artists take note). I have added a new category to my list – the Best Art Fair artwork – due to the fact that art in that setting ought to be weighed-up within that context.

Best Solo Exhibitions:

Two artists’ solo exhibitions really stood out this year. I wish to god they weren’t artists with Stevenson Gallery, as that makes it so predictable and as it is that gallery believes they are far more important than they ought to. Nevertheless, Kemang Wa Lehulere actually pulled out two, not just one, good solo exhibitions in 2015. To Whom it may concern (Stevenson Cape Town) and then his Standard Bank Young Artist Award show, History will Break your Heart. There were a few repetitive elements in the both shows but at the one he debuted at the National Arts Festival he really pushed the boat out, by cleverly intertwining his art with those artists who sit uneasily in SA art history. His work owes much to other artists and curators but it is nonetheless fresh, provocative, evinces a distinctive aesthetic, and blurs the boundary between curating and the nature of collaboration and advances a dialogue with the past in ways that are not easy to reconcile.

Wim Botha’s Pietà (Stevenson Joburg) took me by surprise; I was expecting another one of his suspended black wooden installations and a couple of busts and instead he delivered an exquisite exhibition of paintings in which he deconstructs this famous art motif. Bloody hell. Botha is fucking talented. I hope the gallery sold the lot to a single buyer; I hate to think of that series broken up.

Other solos that caught my attention:

Marlene Steyn, The End is Located Underneath Her Third Armpit (if the muscle is flexed) at Commune 1. As the title of the show suggests, Steyn has a great sense of humour that is combined with a feminist body-conscious-subjectivity drive that is unusually packaged in a sort of medievaleque aesthetic. Brilliant. Love i