intro to SSOA cs edit.docx
The origins of my relationship with the artists of Soweto date back to 1985 when, as a young 17 year old, I started working over weekends at my late father’s fine art and antiques auctioneering company. It was during these years that I had the opportunity to meet some of the top South African black fine artists who brought their works to my father to be sold on auction. The vibrant colours and unique composition of their works captivated me from day one and my inquisitive mind needed to understand what motivated and influenced the artists in their creativity. I began communicating with them on a personal level gaining an in depth understanding of their daily lives, traditions and life philosophies and the portrayal thereof in their works.
It was in 1988, during my second year of studies in Art and Design that I first identified the possibility of these artists from Soweto qualifying as an “art movement” or a “school of art”. This notion was based on the prevalence of many similarities between the lives and works of the Soweto artists and the defining factors upon which internationally recognised art movements and schools of art on the European and American continents had been established. I shared my thoughts with some of the foremost art experts and owners of leading art galleries in South Africa who barely took the time to consider the matter, dismissing my thoughts and findings as “simply impossible”.
Although I stood alone, I remained steadfast in my conviction and, in the face of adversity, took the decision to specialise and direct all of my time and resources in documenting, archiving and preserving their personal histories and works.
In 1996 I opened the first South African retail art gallery specializing exclusively in works of my dear friends and artists from Soweto. “Winston’s Art Gallery” was situated in Rosebank, Johannesburg and was named in honour of Winston Saoli, one of the greatest artists of the “Soweto School of Art” who tragically passed away in 1995.
To my surprise and more especially in a young democratic South Africa, my actions were frowned upon even ridiculed by the same “experts” in contemporary art circles in Johannesburg who had brushed off my thoughts some 8 years earlier. They constantly advised me that there was no sustainable market for “township art” in South Africa, refusing to acknowledge the historical and cultural significance of this group of artists. By now, I had clearly defined them as a legitimate school of art in accordance with internationally accepted standards collectively referring to them as the “Soweto School of Art”.
Their reaction highlighted the reality that unless I formally documented and preserved the cultural and historical heritage embodied in the works of art produced by my beloved group of friends in Soweto, their legacy could well go by unnoticed and be lost forever.
In September 1996, I travelled to the USA where I established relations with academics, curators and gallery owners in Altanta, GA, Washington DC and Baltimore, MD where the works of the Soweto artists were positively received. I also learnt that works of these Soweto artists had been avidly collected by private as well as corporate collectors in the USA since the 70’s. I was encouraged to pursue my vision in formally recording the Soweto School of Art as a legitimate school of art by individuals with whom I had shared my preliminary findings.
The first significant milestone for the Soweto School of Art was in mid-1998 when I received a letter of confirmation from The Smithsonian Museum of African Art, Washington DC that two works by the late Winston Saoli (which I had donated to them for evaluation during the course of my US visit in 1996) had been accepted into their permanent collection. Winston Saoli (1950-1995) proudly represents the “Soweto School of Art” in one of the most prestigious museums in the world where he is recognised as a prominent 20th century artists, sharing a home with the likes of Picasso, Cezanne, Matisse, Jackson Pollack and Andy Warhol.
Two works of art created by one of these so called “township artists” only capable of producing “pavement art” was accepted into the permanent collection of in 1998.
Taking Soweto Fine Art Gallery into the 21st Century..…
As a young art student in the 80’s I could not convince the members of the elite “artsinese” speaking society seated behind the desks of some of the most prominent and renowned South African fine art galleries of the talent and significance of the black art being created in Soweto. I am forever grateful that they brushed of my thoughts and ridiculed my vision that this group of artists would in time become the first black “school of art” movement to emerge from the African continent as it gave me a clear direction of what needed to be done. In 1996
who ruled and dictated who would and who would not be considered as the contemporary South African fine art marketargue against my observation and option regarding the group of black artists in active in Soweto possible being part of a new “school of art” to emerge in the the world history timeline of