The fifth MTN New Contemporaries Arts Awards are almost upon us. Held every two years, this prestigious competition identifies four emerging South African artists as the new stars of the South African art world, and elects a winner among them. This year, for the first time, this acclaimed event will take place in Durban, at the KZNSA Gallery.
One of the MTN SA Foundation’s most renowned projects, the MTN New Contemporaries Award is a competition designed to promote talented, cutting-edge artists who have not yet received critical acclaim but who are positioned to be the next leaders in the art field.
Says Eunice Maluleke; Head of MTN SA Foundation: “The MTN SA New Contemporaries Award affirms our responsibility to encourage creative thinking outside the business arena and allows the opportunity for young South Africans to be heard. These awards are also aimed at promoting young artists who have not yet had the opportunity for appropriate exposure.”
The 2010 artists who’ll be going up against each other this year promises to be an exciting line-up and a peek at some of their proposals suggests that we can look forward to a diverse exhibition that mixes traditional and new media within a contemporary context, and that might variously be described as critical, socially-engaged or ironic. As has almost become ‘de rigueur’ for the New Contemporaries, performance could find a role too.
The nominated artists are Donna Kukama; Kemang Wa Luhelere; Mohau Modisakeng and Stuart Bird.
Identifying the four artists for the MTN New Contemporaries Award is something of a curatorial mission. The process starts with a national research project, undertaken by an appointed young curator who is a specialist in contemporary art.
The practice of selecting the curator is in itself a lengthy process, managed by the Arts and Culture Portfolio of the MTN Foundation. The enterprise calls upon previous curators, judges and peers in the industry to nominate a talented individual with proven expertise in contemporary art curation, and who is likely to make the most substantial contribution to capacity-building in the field.
This year, the role fell to Nontobeko Ntombela. It is her vision, which will elaborate months of research of emerging artists in all nine provinces of South Africa that will give the exhibition, which will be held in September – Heritage Month – its definitive flavor and intellectual under-pinning. Ntombela’s comment about the exhibition was, ‘We can look forward to an exciting, fresh exhibition of cutting edge ideas dealing with current contemporaries ideas. The artists in the show complement yet contradict each other’s works through their use of medium and the concepts. This show will surely be a good reflection of the current contemporary practice in South Africa. Formulating an exhibition narrative in the presentation of work will be quite exciting.
The MTN New Contemporaries Award is distinctly different from conventional art competitions in South Africa as it is entirely unsolicited by the artists it honours. The competition also discards old stereotypes about art and foregrounds our artists as a source of new ideas and media.
“The concept of the MTN SA New Contemporaries Award contributes to the preservation of South Africa’s rich cultural and artistic heritage. Held every two years, this year is different in that it is the fifth year running meaning that we have had ten years invested in the emerging contemporary art field,” continues Eunice.