JAG kicks off the year with a not to be missed display of recently restored Gerard Sekoto (1913 – 1993) paintings. The 10 paintings from the JAG collection were restored in 2012 as part of a unique arts support programme by Merrill Lynch, a subsidiary of Bank of America, and the Gerard Sekoto Foundation (GSF). The restoration was part of the Merrill Lynch sponsorship raised by the GSF for the retrospective exhibition organised by the foundation at WAM.
Over the decades the works had suffered various degrees and forms of deterioration. Now the paintings, which all date from the 1940s, can once more be appreciated for their vibrant colours and visual impact.
Sekoto’s art skills emerged as a teenager, but would only blossom to full potential after the age of 25, when he arrived in Johannesburg to pursue a career as an artist. He held his first solo exhibition in 1939. In 1940 JAG became the first museum in South Africa to purchase a work by a black artist, acquiring his Yellow Houses. It has since become one of the gallery’s most cherished artworks and a visitors’ favourite.
Sekoto produced his most acclaimed work in the period between 1945 and 1947; the township of Eastwood and its surroundings providing inspiration for some of his most accomplished paintings. However, in 1947 Sekoto chose to go into self-imposed exile – relocating to Paris, France. His decision was based on the his potential lack of freedom and limited growth possibilities as a black artist in South Africa, in light of the then impending Afrikaner Nationalist Party rule.
After spending most of his time in Europe he visited Senegal in 1966, and ended up staying for an entire year working with fellow artist and friend Wilson Tiberio. His stay in Senegal re-established Sekoto’s emotional, creative and cultural links with Africa. Sadly, it was also at this time that an increasingly wayward South African government forced him into mandatory exile by revoking his passport.
With the changing political tide in South Africa, the University of the Witwatersrand bestowed Sekoto with an honorary doctorate in 1989. In 1991, two years before he passed away, JAG honoured him with a retrospective exhibition, the first of its kind, to honour a black South African’s contribution to art history.
Today Sekoto is celebrated as one of South Africa’s modern masters whose work fetches millions on the international art market. Known as a pioneer of urban black art and social realism, his hard-fought international reputation is justly celebrated.
It is the first time since their renovation, that JAG has shown all ten paintings at once, so don’t miss this wonderful opportunity to enjoy these important and beautiful works.
Did you know? There are currently a total of 16 Sekoto works in the JAG collection.