Nhlengethwa, Penn, Nel & Phokela
Another Joburg art auction presents another opportunity to create an art wishlist - what else should art critics do with their time these days? As always my eye is quite firmly on the contemporary market and the Strauss & Co auction at Wanderers tonight offers a few quirky pieces. Herewith my selection:
Sam Nthlengethwa prints have become ubiquitous at art fairs - you pretty much should have one in your art collection. This one, titled Figures in Lounge, is special for instead of featuring an art work by another artist in the interior space, which is a hallmark of a Nthlengethwa print, it features drawing by another artist Robert Hodgins. The work literally depicts the two artists hanging out in a virtual 'lounge'. When are you going to get two great SA's artists signatures together on one work?
Karel Nel's art is part of the British Museum's South Africa: Art of a Nation. This will raise his profile. This early sculpture of his made in the mid '70s is kind of compelling and is interesting from a formalist perspective; this meditation on an 'edge' - all these surfaces compounded in order to arrive at 'nothing' - is that not the edge - the abyss, or the space that precedes it?
I know I have come to the Richard Penn party a little late. I only recently started to really take notice of his art and have come to really appreciate it. In truth I probably prefer his drawings, so this painting titled The Word for It might not be my ultimate Penn purchase. However, Penn's stock will definitely rise in future, I have no doubt in this - the technical proficiency, the commitment he exhibits in making work, the tactile qualities and the ideological space(s) he treads make his art outstanding. Buy him now, while you can still almost afford him.
If there is any artist who has exemplified the 'decolonisation' of the visual medium it must be Johannes Phokela. This series dubbed The Collar, might not be the best example of his painterly talents, but the political, social subtext, around claiming a 'place' in a white supremacist society is strong enough to make this a worthy investment. The discourse on dress and gender that is also insinuated interests me too. The brown tone creeping, seeping into the 'white' faces in the top two portraits are striking.