Celebrating 30 Years of South African visual art heritage

Arts and Sports | Written by Moza Moyo

03 November 2017

As we celebrate the heritage of our country this month, we embrace and highlight all that makes us different and unique. We celebrate the rich history, the diverse culture, and the different traditions that define us. That rich cultural diversity also runs through the South African art landscape.

More than 30 years ago, we launched the prestigious L’Atelier Art Competition to promote South African art.  As one of the biggest art competitions on the continent, L’Atelier has launched many careers over the years and given talented young artists an opportunity to shine on the international stage. Just think of the legendary painter, Penny Siopis, the first ever winner of the competition in 1986; or Jonathan Comerford, who became the first L’Atelier winner in democratic South Africa in 1994.

Billie Zangewa, who walked away with the first ever Gerard Sekoto prize in 2004 has gone on to garner international acclaim with her magnificent silk tapestries. And so has Kai Lossgott, the overall L’Atelier winner in 2015.

These artists’ stunning creations feature in our new photobook along with over 200 other winning works from more than 40 artists. Titled Barclays L’Atelier – 30 Years of Introspection, the book celebrates the last three decades of the L’Atelier and the rapid growth of the competition into a pan-African initiative. This year, the competition was open to participants from 10 countries on the continent, including Kenya, Zambia, Botswana, South Africa, Mauritius, Uganda, Ghana, Egypt, Tanzania, and the Seychelles.

“The book aptly depicts how, for the past 30 years, L’Atelier has nurtured, promoted and sponsored these artists’ works through the Absa Gallery as well as through art professionalism courses, mentorship programmes and international art residencies,” says Dr. Bayliss, Art and Museum Curator at Absa. “We have seen so many of these artists become renowned both locally and internationally and it is with great pleasure that we celebrate their success and the contribution that they have made to the art world with this book.”

It’s not every day that one gets to embark on a visual journey that not only captivates with its three decades’ worth of history but also gives you a gleaming insight into the South African art heritage. The book is an astonishing trove of artworks that have made their way into numerous local and international museums, galleries, and private collections.

For any further enquiries on the book, please contact Dr. Bayliss at paulbay@absa.co.za.

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