My Joburg at la maison rouge continues a series of exhibitions showcasing art in cities that are not capitals, less known by French public, and which began in summer 2011 with Winnipeg in Manitoba province, Canada. My joburg will take in a range of art from Johannesburg, with particular emphasis on young artists who have yet to come to public attention in France.
Johannesburg or Joburg (affectionately termed Jozi by some) has a population of 6 million. More than 2.5 million people live in Soweto alone, the best-known of the city's townships. It is, to quote the historian and political scientist Achille Mbembe, an "elusive metropolis".
Johannesburg has become home to a thriving community of painters, photographers, sculptors and video artists whose work describes a city in the throes of change with a complex social, political and urban history. My joburg sets out to capture certain facets of this. While making no claims to explore every aspect of its art scene, but bringing their curiosity and fresh eyes, Paula Aisemberg and Antoine de Galbert, respectively director and chairman of la maison rouge, have developed the exhibition and its accompanying catalogue in consultation with key figures and specialists in the Johannesburg art scene. They are Nechama Brodie, Dorothee Kreutzfeldt, John Fleetwood, Bettina Malcomess, Molemo Moiloa and Sean O’Toole.
Sprawling, cosmopolitan Johannesburg is a patchwork of contrasting districts, from fashionable neighbour-hoods such as Melville, with bars, restaurants and vintage stores, or Sandton with its gated communities and vast shopping malls from the late 1990s, to the townships still plagued by poverty and crime that new South Africa's twenty years of democracy have yet to overcome. Social injustice didn't disappear with apartheid in 1994. Much remains to be done, politically and socially, before every voice is heard.
Still, the city continues to shed its old skin. Neighbourhoods such as the city centre that were once deserted now attract new populations and have become busy and even fashionable hubs: “Arts on Main” is a good ex-ample. Immigrants from neighbouring countries such as Zimbabwe and Mozambique, looking for a new Goldmine, have also settled in the city, transforming the urban geography.
Artists have seized on this urban and social disparity. Their work sets out to grasp the changes taking place in their country and their city, portrayed differently according to each artist's age, origins and media.
Johannesburg now has a dynamic art scene, backed by an active network of private and public structures.
Galleries show South African artists outside the country and the African continent, often at international art fairs. The annual Joburg Art Fair has become a benchmark for contemporary art specialists in Africa. Private businesses, banks or broadcast channels, also support art through acquisitions, commissions and awards.
Public and semi-public institutions such as the Johannesburg Art Gallery or the new Wits Art Museum, part of the University of the Witwatersrand in the centre of Johannesburg, help build this momentum. Within the space of a few years, many artists' communities and non-profit groups have formed, such as the Center for Historical Reenactments, the Trinity Session, Bag Factory and August House, further adding to the city's cul-tural network.
Several Johannesburg universities teach art and art history to a high level, providing fertile ground for the fu-ture of art in the city.
Johannesburg today is at the core of African contemporary art.
Antoine de Galbert
Performance de Steven Cohen
Kendell Geers, en dialogue avec Jean de Loisy