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13,000 VISIT THE KEBBLES (article first published : 2004-12-4)

The 2004 Brett Kebble Art Awards was a resounding artistic and public success. Breaking all records for the number of visitors to a South African art exhibition, the Awards introduced many of the country's finest artists and their work to a broader public than ever before, with financial rewards as well as exposure for many who took part.

By the time the exhibition in the Cape Town International Convention Centre closed on October 29, after being open to the public for 13 days, a total of 13,071 people - an average of more than 1,000 a day - had been to view the acclaimed art works. On the final day the number of visitors surged to 2,960.

For the exhibition 210 works were selected from over 2,00 entries by artists in eight provinces. O the works on exhibition, 98 were sold to a total of 42 buyers, earning for the artists R658,00.

In a departure from original intentions, the judges, unable to decide which of two artists' work most deserved the main award, split it between them. Tanya Poole of Grahamstown and Phillip Rikhotso of Daniel Village, near Giyani in Limpopo Province, each went home with R130,000.

Four other artists and a community project - Durban choreographer Jay Pather, Marco Sante Cianfanelli, Nathaniel Stern, Sue Williamson and the Keiskamma Art Project - were each awarded R60,000.

Former Durban artists Bronwen Findlay and Jeremy Wafer a well as Zen Marie, the Gerhard Marx/Lara Foot Newton duo, Mberegeni Ndou, Fhumulani Elikanah Nemurunzini received special merit awards of R10,000.

A feature of the exhibition was the excitement it engendered among the visitors, many of whom returned again and again with parties of friends, colleagues and relatives to share in the experience.

"This is something entirely new in South Africa," said curator Clive van den Berg. "Top shows in this country number visitors in dozens a day not thousands. To have over 2,000 people view an exhibition in a day has never happened before. It shows that the Awards are fulfilling a pent-up need among South Africans."

Art doyen Lucia Burger, one of the Awards judges, said she believed it was the diversity of the work on show that had made it so successful. "The selectors made a huge effort, travelling far and wide to ensure artists had the opportunity to be selected and the result is truly representative of what is happening today in South African art," she said.

Julia Meintjes, another judge, said: "There are no other exhibitions of this spread and size in the country at the moment. Add to this the fact that the show has been extremely well promoted and has achieved a high profile and you get a reason for the high level of interest."

Johannesburg will have its chance to see some of the finest works on show in the Awards when The Best of the Kebble travels to Gauteng in February.




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