The Spier Contemporary Mirrors South Africa’s Zeitgeist

The Africa Centre’s Spier Contemporary may be a fairly new feature on the global art calendar, but it is the only South African art biennale of its size and scope.

In an exhaustive national curatorial effort, 101 artists have been selected from the 2,700 plus entries submitted. The resultant exhibition of over 132 works will be on display from 14 March – 14 May 2010 at Cape Town’s City Hall (further national exhibits are planned).

The competition is marked by its lack of criteria for entry. The Spier Contemporary 2010 asked only that the artists live in South Africa.

The selection of works comprises a cross section of mediums and inspiration.

Exploration and searching for identity is a core element of the work. Cultural and race issues are still being unearthed and reviewed in a post-apartheid coming-of-age. Artists grappled with the “State” as a reflection of failed expectations, lack of leadership and disappointment. Soccer commentary also emerged as a strong theme, with many artists questioning the absence of real community benefits surrounding the forthcoming 2010 FIFA World Cup. Humour and self-deprecation ensure that the lighter moments of life are included in the show.

Digital art and photography emerged very clearly as popular mediums for this year’s competition, which also includes a strong sculptural showing and performance art dimensions.

At the heart of the project; producers, The Africa Centre, have a vision to create and support artistic initiatives that centralise the African perspective and approach. The Spier Contemporary arose in part from a need to find a national voice for South African art, but also to reflect South African contemporary art within the definition of an African Contemporary Art framework. Says Africa Centre director, Tanner Methvin, “Perceptions of African Art are often connected to the historic, we wanted to provide a platform for art that defies this limited perspective and transcend African art out of its box into what it is – contemporary art.”

A total prize money of R1.2 million and seven artist in residency programmes worth over R600 000 (to places as far afield as South Korea and Brazil) will be awarded to the finalists and winning artists. Winners will be announced on the 13 March 2010.

A printed catalogue of the exhibition can be ordered directly from The Africa Centre by emailing