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NEW DIMENSION TO THE KEBBLE (article first published : 2005-03-24)

The third Brett Kebble Art Awards, South Africa’s premier accolade for the visual arts, was recently launched in Johannesburg. In addition to the R200,000 prize for the top award and the six major awards of R60,000 each, Brett Kebble announced the introduction of a new themed award. The theme will change every year; this year it is focused on Beauty.

The new award carries a purse of R60,000, bringing the total award monies to R620,000. The aim of the new award is designed to encourage debate around the concept of beauty and stimulate discussion among artists, critics and viewers.

Artist Clive van den Berg will curate the Awards for the second year. New to the curatorial team is award-winning artist and public art campaigner, Kathryn Smith (29), who joins The Kebble fresh from the coveted two-month Ampersand Fellowship in New York. Clive and Kathryn will be assisted by Nandipha Mntambo (22), an artist from Cape Town who has been appointed the second Brett Kebble Art Awards Curatorial Fellow. Mntambo graduated with distinction from Michaelis School of Fine Arts in 2004 and received the staff award for most promising student. Her graduate work is housed in the permanent collection of South African National Gallery and is featured in the latest issue of Art South Africa.

Speaking at the launch, patron Brett Kebble said the Awards fill a much-needed gap in South Africa’s cultural life. “We have clearly succeeded in several of our major goals,” he said. “We have created an excellent showcase for contemporary South African artists, we have succeeded in creating awareness and appreciation among the public of a new generation of artists. For this we owe a considerable debt to the media which has shown overwhelming support for the project. The fact that rural artist Phillip Rikhotso shared the major award last year was front-page news throughout South Africa and this fact alone shows that the Awards have struck a cord with the public.”

Brett Kebble said a major goal was to achieve recognition of rural artists working in fields that were treated quite dismissively by some members of the art community before the introduction of The Kebble. “We have made considerable strides in achieving this goal although much still needs to be done. There are issues of trust among some rural artists who have been badly treated in the past. For that reason we are expanding our outreach programme this year and sending the curatorial team to directly engage with promising rural artists.”

One of the strengths of the Awards was that the organizers listened to what the artistic community wanted: Artists have asked for more time to create original entries because all the works selected for the Kebble must have been created in the 12 months leading up to the awards and may not have been exhibited elsewhere. To facilitate this request, the closing date for entries has been moved to August 22. This means that the finalists’ exhibition will be held from February 4 to 23, 2006. The recipients of the third Brett Kebble Awards will be announced at a function on February 11, 2006. The exhibition will once again be held at the Cape Town International Convention Centre (CTICC).

Curator van den Berg said that the new themed prize was aimed at stimulating debate. “Separated in our ideas of beauty by culture, gender, race, age, religion and other markers of identity, beauty is a kind of lodestone to where we are; an indicator of a rapidly changing and contested cultural scene,” he said. “The new time of the exhibition would enable more people the opportunity to see it. “Last year more than 13,000 visitors came to see the exhibition, a record for South Africans visiting an art exhibition – given our new ‘slot’, we are confident that even more people will get an opportunity to see the cream of South African contemporary art.”

He added that the new dates would also allow more learners to benefit from the exhibition. Last year a schools visitor programme saw over 600 learners from schools in an around Cape Town transported to the CTICC for guided tours and workshops around the finalists’ exhibition.

Said Van den Berg: “Exposing young people to art is an important part of our mandate from Brett and this way, we will be able to offer more school tours because there will be no clash with exam schedules.”

The works will be selected by the curators, Clive Kellner, director of the Johannesburg Art Gallery, Tanya Poole, the Grahamstown-based artist who shared top honours in last year’s Kebble and Sipho Mdanda, respected artist and curator of Pretoria’s Freedom Park Museum. The difficult task of selecting the winners fall to Julia Charlton of the Wits Art Gallery, art administrator Frank Ledimo and a third judge who will be named later in the year.

Entry forms are available from the award website at www.thekebble.co.za or from the organisers on 021 797 0467. Any artists over the age of 21 living and working in South Africa may enter. There are no technical or size restrictions on the art works entered, providing unique opportunities for artists working particularly in installation and new media to be contenders for the title.




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