The Spier Contemporary biennale exhibition has been conceived to provide an open platform for all artists to show their work, uncompromised by the limitations of technology, space and access. Contemporary artists in South Africa work under extremely varied conditions and see from radically different perspectives. These differences are what define our collective identity and unique social and cultural landscape. The Spier Contemporary provides a space for exploring our diversity and identity, giving audiences insights into our complexity and thus contributing to our understanding of difference. It has become a key event on South African art calendar.
The core objectives of the Spier Contemporary are to:
- Create a large-scale national exhibition, which genuinely reflects the diversity of the broad arts community living in South Africa;
- Develop new audiences and markets for artists, who do not normally have access to such a large pool of potential buyers;
- Access new audiences and develop their appreciation of a broad spectrum of artistic forms; and
- Provide training and development for artists and curators.
The event: competition and exhibition
The core of the Spier Contemporary is a national competition and exhibition. The competition is open to all artists and art forms including, but not exclusive to the traditional mediums (e.g. painting, printmaking, photography and sculpture) and newer languages (e.g. installation, new media, film or performance). There are genuinely no limitations.
For the 2010 exhibition, submissions took place at thirteen selection centres across South Africa. Works were accepted throughout the week of 26-30 October 2009, with the greatest portion of work arriving in the last two days. Whilst the majority of entries came in to the major city centres, there was a noticible increase in outlying areas from the Spier Contemporary 2007/8. This was the result of a significant amount of developmental work that the Spier Contemporary project rolled out in these areas.
There were just over 2,700 entries in total, which represented an increase of 10% from the previous exhibition. More encouraging though, was that the total number of artists entering doubled.
From the pool of entries, 101 artists have been selected to exhibit their art which translates into over 134 art pieces to engage with at the Exhibition.
Spier Contemporary 2010 was launched in Cape Town on 14th March 2010 at the City Hall in Darling Street. The Exhibition closed in Cape Town on the 14th May 2010. During these two months over 20,000 people saw the exhibition. The Exhibition is now touring South Africa’s main centres.
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The Spier Contemporary 2010 offers a range of awards designed specifically to support the professional development of the winning artists. A Selection Award was made to each artist chosen for the exhibition in recognition of the incredible effort and energy each has made to enter the competition. In addition, the Spier Contemporary 2010 included the following awards:
- Judge Awards – five awards are made by the team of three international judges.
- Audience Award – one audience choice award is made via popular vote by visitors to the Cape Town exhibition.
Both these category of awards are designed to assist the winning artists in developing their respective career. The winning artists develop a comprehensive proposal and budget for how they wish to use the award to advance their career.
The total cash available to be shared amongst the artists who win these six awards is R600 000.
- Residency Awards – In addition to these awards, there are seven artists-in-residency awards, which Spier Contemporary 2010 artists have won. Four international residency programmes have offered places and funding for Spier Contemporary 2010 artists.
The available residencies include:
- Gyeonggi Creation Center Residency Studio Program in Seongam Island, Ansan City, Gyeonggi Province, South Korea (two awards provided);
- The Instituto Sacatar and the Sacatar Foundation on the Island of Itaparica, Bahia, Brazil (two awards provided);
- 18TH STREET ARTS CENTER in Los Angeles, California, USA; and
- Thamdigi Foundation Prize in Arnhem, Netherlands and Beijing China (two awards provided).
The total value of the cash and residency awards is R1 800 000.