The exhibition Being/Present developed as a response to the prevalent categorisation of and disconnection from current discourse surrounding recently deceased artists, typically those who have passed away within the last decade.

In 2022 I curated an exhibition showcasing sculptures by Bruce Arnott (1938 – 2018) and Paul du Toit (1965 – 2014) at the Past/Modern section of the Investec Cape Town Art Fair. The response was overwhelming positive, marking the first exhibition of Arnott’s work since 2004. It prompted a thinking about how recently deceased artists are classified on major international platforms. It also seeded the idea for an exhibition with the aim to tether these artists to present discourse instead of confining them solely to the past.

The approach involved pairing the artworks of deceased artists with those of contemporary practicing artists. I collaborated closely with estate custodians and invited practicing artists to respond, interpret, or engage with either a specific artwork or the broader practice of the deceased artist.

The pairings of Barend De Wet (1956 – 2017) and Martine Margoles, and Benon Lutaaya (1985 – 2019), Chepape Makgato and Patrick Seruwu are rooted in enduring friendships. The quest for a Benon Lutaaya work concluded in drawings from his personal collection, courtesy of fellow artist Patrick Seruwu. Contemporary jeweler and academic Carine Terreblanche is matched with the sculptor, curator, and educator, Bruce Arnott. This juxtaposition places jewelry, one of humanity’s earliest art forms, in conversation with an evocative bronze sculpture.

Bruce Arnott.
Carine Terreblanche.

Another cluster features works by Peter Clarke (1929 – 2014), Willem Boshoff, and Manfred Zylla, centering on the utilisation of text, words, and language — a pivotal element in each of these artists’ practices, albeit executed through distinct methodologies.

Pairing Elzahn Nel with Grada Djeri (1956 – 2014) prompted nuanced responses to Djeri’s experiences of loss as a result of the Balkan War, while Monique Prinsloo’s response to Djeri’s work draws on his unique style of image-making.

The landscape is central in the conversation between Johann Louw and Walter Meyer (1965 – 2017) and Usen Obot’s figurative shapes carved into wood panels, resonate energetically akin to the expressive quality found in du Toit’s painted figures and shapes. Lastly, Jurgen Schadeberg (1931 – 2020) and Pierre Crocquet’s (1971 – 2013) photographs are paired with those of Lindeka Qampi, and here the conversation is uniquely centered on the medium of photography and shines a light on South Africa’s long and rich history of documentary photography.

Photographs by Schadeberg, Qampi and Crocquet

Bruce Arnott (Carine Terreblanche). Peter Clarke (Willem Boshoff and Manfred Zylla). Barend de Wet (Martine Margoles). Grada Djeri (Elzahn Nel and Monique Prinsloo). Paul du Toit (Usen Obot). Benon Lutaaya (Chepape Makgato and Patrick Seruwu). Walter Meyer (Johann Louw). Jurgen Schadeberg and Pierre Crocquet (Lindeka Qampi).

Curated by Heidi Erdmann. On view at Glen Carlou, Paarl, South Africa until 10 March 2024.