Photos by Kevin Todora

Acclaimed South African contemporary exhibition at museum in South Dallas

Special The Dallas Examiner

The African American Museum of Dallas in historic Fair Park will host “If You Look Hard Enough, You Can See Our Future: Selections of Contemporary South African Art from the Nando’s Art Collection” during the State Fair of Texas. The exhibit will highlight emerging, mid-career and renowned artists through Oct. 22.

Culled from one of the world’s largest collections of contemporary South African art, the exhibit will feature 62 pieces from 55 artists. From a continent with a rich and dynamic art scene, some of the must-see works are drawn from the collection’s strength in portraiture, landscape, cityscapes and abstraction. The museum is located at 3536 Grand Ave. and visitors can observe the art collection free of charge.

Several of the featured artists on display have received recent accolades:

• Zanele Muholi is a ground-breaking Black queer photographer with a current retrospective in Paris at the Maison Européenne de la Photographie.

• Represented by the Stevenson gallery in South Africa and David Zwirner in New York City and London, Portia Zvahera is a rising star with works featured at the 59th Venice Biennale.

• A 35-year survey exhibition from William Kentridge, “In Praise of Shadows” is currently on display at The Museum of Fine Arts in Houston.

• Recently profiled by CNN, Mbongeni Buthelezi known for his innovative work created from melted plastic is an artist activist who collects and repurposes litter into breathtaking portraits.

Other notable artists on view include David Goldblatt, Claudette Schreuders, Kagiso Patrick Mautloa, Igshaan Adams, Stephen Hobbs, Vivien Kohler, Anastasia Pather, Penny Siopis, Clyde van den Berg and Samson Mnisi. Many of the young and emerging artists are showing work in North America for the first time.

“Our supporters, our visitors and our community have rarely witnessed an exhibit that so exquisitely tells the stories of the diverse cultural and political experience found in Africa,” said Dr. Harry Robinson Jr., president and CEO of the African American Museum. “We’ve had very large crowds, and our visitors have warmly embraced the powerful, beautiful and bold messages presented by these talented artists.”

Dick Enthoven, the late-South African businessman, philanthropist, art collector and primary shareholder of the beloved-restaurant group Nando’s, had a passion for supporting South African artists which led him to create the Nando’s Art Collection and feature original works of art in Nando’s restaurants. Enthoven then created the Spier Arts Trust, a nonprofit that continues to collect and support South African artists as well as managing the artworks of the Nando’s Art Collection. Enthoven spent more than two decades building the 25,000+ piece collection from which the exhibit was curated.

Tapped by the Enthoven family to curate the North American debut of exemplary works from the collection never before seen together, Laurie Ann Farrell is one of the most important curators working to showcase artists from Africa and the African Diaspora to the U.S. Farrell served as a curator at The African Center – formerly known as The Museum of African Art – in New York City, an executive director of museums and exhibitions at Savannah College of Art and Design, curator and head of the modern and contemporary art department at the Detroit Institute of Art, and now a Dallas-based independent curator and writer. In November, she will curate a show a part of the Something Else – Off Biennale Cairo.

“It’s an honor of a lifetime to be able to curate an exhibit from such an exemplary collection and bring an impressive range of talent from the African continent to North America,” Farrell said. “While immersed in distinct aesthetics, everyone that visits will experience the universal themes of humanity, love, loss and hope for a better future.”

Administered by the Spier Arts Trust, an initiative promoting emerging Southern African artists called “The Creative Block” offers original and reasonably priced South African artworks that visitors may buy and add to their personal collections while supporting artists early on in their careers. Artists who are invited to join the program are given blank blocks to create new works. The Spier Arts Trust team then mentor these artists and acquire selected blocks. Some of these Creative Blocks end up in the Nando’s Art Collection and others are made available for purchase. A broad array of Creative Blocks are being offered at the African American Museum and are displayed near the museum shop.

“In addition to fried food favorites, music, livestock and carnival rides, the estimated 2.5 million visitors to this year’s State Fair of Texas will also be able to experience a sampling of some of the best South African contemporary art in the world,” Robinson concluded.

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