STEVENSON is pleased to present Both, and, a group exhibition reflecting on 15 years of the gallery’s existence. Stevenson is jointly owned by a collective of 11 directors, and this exhibition is curated by its newest partners, Sisipho Ngodwana and Alexander Richards.
The title positions this exhibition as an alternative to an ‘either/or’ way of thinking, making room for a point of view that is multiple, mutable and inclusive. At its core, Stevenson has always been dedicated to art history and current discourse – a place for ideas. At the same time, the gallery has remained a place of commerce. A question that has been pivotal throughout the years is ‘how can we be both committed to art history, and fully engaged with the market?’ The curators set out to navigate this apparent paradox in their approach to the show.
Both, and takes place across Stevenson’s Cape Town and Johannesburg locations. The exhibition spills over into the private and administrative spaces within both galleries, which will be accessible to the public for the duration of the show. It features new and existing works by current gallery artists, by old friends, and by new acquaintances. True to its theme, some works are new to the marketplace, others re-enter it and others exist apart from it.
In Cape Town, The Nightwatch by Francis Alÿs is presented inside a walk-in safe. The video documents the after-hours wanderings of a fox through the National Portrait Gallery in London as recorded by the museum’s CCTV system. The deployment of a fox as an interloper in this hallowed space, constantly under surveillance, and the placement of this work inside a usually restricted area invite reflection on notions of value, access and agency as well as the act of viewing.
Jane Alexander’s Frontier with Church depicts an array of animal-human hybrids re-enacting a scene from Dante’s Divine Comedy. Originally commissioned for the travelling exhibition of the same title, and first shown at the Museum für Moderne Kunst Frankfurt, the installation’s reconfiguration in the gallery prompts ideas about mythologies, the secular and the sacred.
In Edson Chagas’ Oikonomos self-portrait series, plastic shopping bags from around the world become visual metaphors for globalised capital. With Chagas hiding his face beneath the bags, the work questions complicity and autonomy in a market context. Shown here for the first time in South Africa, the series is displayed both as discrete artworks and as stacks of free posters.
Intersections Intersected, David Goldblatt’s 2008 exhibition with the gallery, is revisited through a selection of the photographic pairings from this project. As observed at the time, the tensions, congruities and incongruities to be found in these pairings speak in varying ways of life here, and of continuity and change in South Africa.
A selection of works is included from across Zanele Muholi’s oeuvre. Only Half the Picture, first exhibited the year that same-sex marriage was legalised in South Africa (2006), is an unprecedented set of images of black, female, same-sex relationships and confronts the assumption that queerness is alien to African cultures. Other series revisited include Of Love & Loss, a record of LGBTI weddings and funerals; Being, a chronicle of black lesbian relationships; MO(U)RNING, a response to an invasion of Muholi’s own home; the ongoing portrait projects Brave Beauties and Faces and Phases, which function as living archives of black lesbian and trans individuals; and Somnyama Ngonyama, where Muholi turns the camera onto herself to confront race in the photographic archive.
We welcome Paulo Nazareth’s work to the gallery for the first time with his video Existe Arte Diante dos seus olhos (which translates as ‘there is art in front of your eyes’). The work, in which the artist is seen lying in the ruins of destroyed buildings in Brazil, is placed near to ongoing construction as the gallery building’s structure is reinforced, in a play on the interconnectedness of creativity and destruction.
Wim Botha’s Mieliepap Pietà (2004) is a life-size, mirrored replica of Michelangelo’s Pietà (1498-99). By remaking the iconic sculpture using mieliepap, a South African staple, Botha contextualises South African art within global art history, much as the exhibition reflects on the gallery’s relationship to the larger art world.
Traders, a 2004 painting by Deborah Poynton, presents a composite scene incorporating numerous aspects of everyday South African life. The broad spectrum of people represented, and the power dynamics that emerge once they engage with one another commercially, foreground ideas around commodity, possession, trade and self in the South African context.
Barthélémy Toguo’s installation of banana boxes and mosquito nets is a reworking of the artist’s first presentation with the gallery in Distant Relatives/Relative Distance (2006). In the main office space, the work is an immersive inversion, an artwork disrupting a space dedicated to administrative work around art. Shown in a bookkeeping office, a sketch by Avant Car Guard titled Ready, Steady, Invoice humorously points to the tension between the imperatives of innovation and commerce.
Other artists featured in Cape Town include Breyten Breytenbach, Jordan Casteel, Steven Cohen, Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Paul Edmunds, Olafur Eliasson, Jared Ginsburg, Ian Grose, Nicholas Hlobo, Pieter Hugo, Anton Kannemeyer, Mawande Ka Zenzile, Glenn Ligon, Songezile Madikida, Mustafa Maluka, Mitchell Gilbert Messina, Sabelo Mlangeni, Nandipha Mntambo, Wangechi Mutu, Youssef Nabil, Daniel Naudé, Simphiwe Ndzube, Hylton Nel, Mame-Diarra Niang, Odili Donald Odita, Thierry Oussou, Jo Ractliffe, Viviane Sassen, Claudette Schreuders, Berni Searle, Lerato Shadi, Kemang Wa Lehulere, Lynette Yiadom-Boakye and Portia Zvavahera.
Artists featured in Johannesburg include Francis Alÿs, Walter Battiss, Zander Blom, Meschac Gaba, Simon Gush, Dada Khanyisa, Moshekwa Langa, Meleko Mokgosi, Serge Alain Nitegeka, Odili Donald Odita, Robin Rhode, Bogosi Sekhukhuni, Paul Mpagi Sepuya, Penny Siopis and Guy Tillim - click here for more on this part of the show.
Our gratitude to the artists, staff, colleagues, collectors, curators, critics and many others who have shared these 15 years with us.
Both, and opens in Cape Town on Thursday 5 July, 6 to 8pm, and in Johannesburg on Saturday 7 July, 10am to 1pm.
Curators Sisipho Ngodwana and Alexander Richards will give a walkabout of the exhibition on Saturday 14 July at 11am. All are welcome.