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Friday, October 7, 2011

SILENCE FROM SOUTH AFRICAN ART WORLD FOLLOWING VENICE BIENNALE CONTROVERSY





Silence from South African art world following Venice Biennale controversy
Pavilion commissioner is also a gallerist and two of his artists have been selected to represent the country

By Matthew Blackman Web only
Published online 22 Sep 11 (News)

A questionable silence has fallen over the press and much of the South African art world regarding the controversy of South Africa’s participation in the Venice Biennale. The quiet follows highly public and furious exchanges between the Cape Town University professor Malcolm Payne and the Visual Arts Network of South Africa (Vansa), a development agency funded by the National Arts Council (see related article).

The controversy arose when the blog Panga Management revealed that gallerist Monna Mokoena and the Lethole Mokoena, listed on the Biennale’s website as South Africa’s commissioner, were one and the same person. Suspicions were aroused by the fact that two of Mokoena’s artists, Lyndi Sales and Mary Sibande, had been selected to represent South Africa alongside Zwelethu Mthethwa—who pulled out over the fiasco—and Siemon Allen. Mthethwa, who withdrew from the Biennale owing to “a lack of transparency”, said that for quite some time he was unaware that Monna Mokoena was the commissioner.

How the Department of Arts and Culture (DAC) selected the commissioner is still shrouded in mystery. In emails that have recently come to light, the department’s chief director of international relations claimed as late as December 2010 that it “could not commit at this stage” to the Biennale and that the department would probably not participate in 2011 because the budget “was under severe strain.” Both the DAC and Mokoena have, to date, refused to reveal just how South Africa’s participation has been financed. The DAC is also known to have asked Marilyn Martin, the retired director of the South African National Gallery, as recently as late 2010 for information as to what processes and procedures were undertaken when South Africa previously participated in the Biennale in 1995.

Read full article here.

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