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Contemporary South African Art in New York: A Group Exhibition Case Study


Contemporary South African Art in New York: A Group Exhibition Case Study

Pages, Lucile (2015) Contemporary South African Art in New York: A Group Exhibition Case Study. Masters thesis, Concordia University.

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This thesis looks at the critical position of the 2004 New York exhibition “Personal Affects: Power and Poetics in Contemporary African Art” within the history of South African exhibitions locally and internationally. I argue that the exhibition’s restricted selection of artists excluded craft and traditional practices, and thus overlooked the cultural diversity of the country and failed to engage with the multiple South African identities embodied in non-Western based practices.
Following the theoretical framework of world art studies, I begin by asserting the need to think about contemporary art as a temporal framework and to broaden its definition so as to include all kind of significant practices. I then look at the South African exhibitions of the 1980s and early 1990s when hope for the end of apartheid united South African curators and artists in the quest for a more representative and inclusive artistic canon characterizing the new ‘rainbow nation’ gave raise to exhibitions that displayed crafts and traditional arts as contemporary art. After the second Johannesburg Biennale of 1997, the national desire to re-enter the international art scene in collaboration with international curators and institutions promulgated a contemporary South African art understood in Western terms, changing the path opened by previous national exhibitions. Examining in more detail the artworks of “Personal Affects” in the last section, I aim to demonstrate that the exhibition is inscribed in the dominant discourse on contemporary art imposed by the international art scene by restricting the notion of South African identity to mostly university-trained and urban–based artists, whose works resonated with the American context of the Museum for African Art.

Divisions:Concordia University > Faculty of Fine Arts > Art History
Item Type:Thesis (Masters)
Authors:Pages, Lucile
Institution:Concordia University
Degree Name:M.A.
Program:Art History
Date:September 2015
Thesis Supervisor(s):Whitelaw, Anne
ID Code:980524
Deposited By: LUCILE PAGES
Deposited On:26 Oct 2015 19:20
Last Modified:18 Jan 2018 17:51
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