Association for Africanist Anthropology
Group Flash Presentation Session
In South Africa’s art scene, a commercial art gallery remains a standard that signifies a world of class making, tied to a luxury market. Its communities do not shy away from acknowledging the whiteness of this world in a post-colonialist, post-apartheid era, often pointing to the category of ‘white males’ as consolidators of resources. This paper follows an artist after moving back to South Africa, now residing within inner-city Johannesburg, a site often referred to as ‘African’ in relation to the suburban art hub. A black South African with a white gallerist: a kinship between two men in an art context becomes a key bond, a relationship formed around the artist’s career, around the art world, and essentially around the art market. Drawing on ethnographic research conducted in 2016-2017, this paper follows the artist along with his relations to his gallerist which becomes a way to indirectly talk about why this art is found by buyers abroad as a kind of ‘African art’ in some way, to some people, but not as such closer to home. I aim to explore how the artist relates and reacts to the demands of a local art world in terms of racialized and gendered discourses in the field and around art and the making of it—that is in a South African art world that is linked to international buyers and funders of a western world.