Robin Rhode, Piano Chair (video still, detail), 2011. Animation; color digital video with sound, 3 mins., 50 secs. Edition of 5, exhibition copy. © Robin Rhode. Courtesy the artist and Lehmann Maupin, New York and Hong Kong
May 6, 2014

Contemporary Art/South Africa

PDF icon Press Release (PDF)

May 9–September 14, 2014

Artworks reflect the immense political and social change in South Africa over the last 50 years

The Yale University Art Gallery presents the exhibition Contemporary Art/South Africa, featuring more than 30 artworks produced in South Africa or by South Africans over the last 50 years, a period of immense political and social change. The artists in this exhibition—including Gavin Jantjes, William Kentridge, Santu Mofokeng, Zanele Muholi, Robin Rhode, and Sue Williamson—address key aspects of the experiences of South Africans, offering multiple perspectives on their lives, their society, and their world. Organized by Yale University students from various disciplines, including art history, African studies, and African American studies, the exhibition runs from May 9 through September 14, 2014.

Exhibition Overview

Contemporary Art/South Africa highlights the vibrancy of South African culture and society while inviting viewers to question whether it is possible to understand a country through the art it has produced, and to understand contemporary art throughout the country in which it was made. The slash in the title of the exhibition represents the artists’ engagement with blurring boundaries, including those between races, cultures, eras, and nations; as the slash simultaneously separates and joins the words of the title, it evokes both barriers and connections. “South Africa is one of the most exciting sites of contemporary art production in the world today,” says Kate Ezra, the Nolen Curator of Academic Affairs. “This exhibition provides a wonderful opportunity to see the diversity and depth of the work being created there and to understand its relationship to South African history and its relevance to contemporary art more generally.”

The exhibition features a small but growing collection of South African artworks acquired by the Gallery in recent years, including notable photographs by Santu Mofokeng and Zanele Muholi, on view for the first time, and NO, IT IS (2012), a recent video work by William Kentridge that complements the Gallery’s collection of other videos and prints by the artist. These works are placed alongside loans from public and private collections, including the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Newark Museum, New Jersey; and galleries in New York and South Africa. Mikhael Subotzky’s four-part video Moses and Griffiths (2012), previously on display in South Africa and Paris, makes its American premiere in the exhibition.

In addition to photographs and videos, the exhibition includes prints, drawings, and mixed media works that explore themes such as the political and social injustices of apartheid; the ways in which art has shaped the course of South African politics; the use of the human body to explore universal issues such as xenophobia and migration, marginalization of sexual minorities, and gendered labor; the notion of national identity; and the daily lives and experiences of South Africans in the post-apartheid era.

Contemporary Art/South Africa is curated by undergraduate and graduate students from a variety of disciplines, including African Studies, African American Studies, American Studies, English, History, History of Art, and Sociology. “The project definitely benefited from different voices and perspectives,” says Katherine Fein, PC ’14. “The exhibition itself is open to various interpretations. Each work stands on its own, yet taken together they represent a complex, multifaceted portrait of contemporary South African society and culture.”

Related Programs

Members’ Preview

May 7, 3:00 pm

Exhibition Tour

June 27, 1:30 pm

Gallery Talk

August 27, 12:30 pm

For additional programming, visit the Gallery’s website at artgallery.yale.edu/calendar-upcoming-events.

Exhibition student-curated by Katherine Fein, PC ’14; Kathryn Kaelin, SY ’15; Matthew Keaney, PH.D. candidate, History; Denise Lim, M.A. candidate, African Studies; Claire Schwartz, PH.D. candidate, African American Studies and American Studies; Cristina Vere Nicoll, SY ’14; and Christina Siobhan Wells, PH.D. candidate, African American Studies and Sociology, under the mentorship of Kate Ezra, the Nolen Curator of Education and Academic Affairs. Made possible by the Jane and Gerald Katcher Fund for Education; the John F. Wieland, Jr., B.A. 1988, Fund for Student Exhibitions; and the Nolen-Bradley Family Fund for Education.

Download Image Sheet

Continue Exploring

Collection Objects
Prints, Drawings, and Photographs
Collection Objects
Indo-Pacific Art
Collection Objects
Modern and Contemporary Art
Collection Objects
American Paintings and Sculpture
Collection Objects
Art of the Ancient Americas