South Africa’s pool of multi-disciplinary creative professionals

South Africa’s pool of multi-disciplinary creative professionals

SA Taxi Foundation Art Award deepens South Africa’s pool of multi-disciplinary creative professionals


South African talent being prepared to participate in the global art market worth in excess of $60 billion


The SA Taxi Foundation Art Award is unique in its ability to prepare local emerging artists and designers to participate in the global art market.


“Ours is the only South African award that requires artists to not only create an original work but translate it into a decal that can be wrapped around a minibus taxi,” says SA Taxi Foundation director, Lishani Letchmiah.


“In the process, artists and designers must work to an external brief and a deadline as they would in the corporate sector. For artists, this exposes them to a different process from the one used in creating an artwork, where the parameters and creative expression are self rather than client defined. From the perspective of designers, the competition allows for freer expression than they usually experience in their professional lives.


“Entrants are also working in more than one medium in order to deliver a product that works as well in 3D format, on the taxi, as it does in its original medium. And, they have to think beyond the still gallery format to a mobile, public format.


“The Award is therefore engendering among progressively more artists and designers every year multi-disciplinary creative capabilities that are also professional.


“These skills are vital if South African creatives are to benefit from a global art market industry that, according to the 2016 Art Market Report issued by the world’s pre-eminent art and antique fair, TEFAF, achieved total sales of $63.8 billion in 2015. Consistently participating in even a small section of such a market would contribute significantly to our economy overall and it would put our own art sector on a nicely sustainable footing.”


The TEFAF report shows that private sales account for 53% of the industry’s revenue and auctions 47%. A growing section of the market is online sales, reaching an estimated $4.7 billion in 2015.


“In principle, art is globalised anyway because art lovers are not confined to a given country,” Letchmiah says. “But, as with most other industries today, technology makes it possible for a local artist to market his or her work anywhere in the world.


“The challenge is often professional practice within the industry which is where our partner, Lizamore & Associates, provides a necessary support structure to the artists as intermediaries.


“They provide artists with invaluable guidance on the preparation they need to do to engage an audience and an art market. This includes, for example, setting up of exhibitions, the way they package their work for proposals and presentation, and how to put together marketing collateral such as catalogues and brochures.


“Short of an enormous stroke of luck, no artist can break into a global market worth billions of dollars without developing some level of professionalism. Our Award helps to get them started down that road.”


Teresa Lizamore, owner of Lizamore & Associates Gallery, says that there are relatively few professional career artists in South Africa. “Being able to live off your work as opposed to doing it on an ad hoc basis and trusting luck to sell it does call for a focused, business-like approach.


“For many artists, art and business are mutually exclusive activities. But, for those who do concentrate on systematically building their careers and reputations, the financial payoff can be substantial. The structure and intent of the SA Taxi Foundation Art Award enables us to provide some encouragement and focused advice related to taking a more professional approach to one’s art career.”


“In that context, these early career artists have limited exposure to the business side of the art sector,” Letchmiah says. “The Award is, therefore, all the more important as a part of their professional development.”


Encouraging this development, SA Taxi Foundation sponsored attendance by the 2017 finalists at a two-day seminar presented in April by art consultants, Art Source South Africa, and hosted at the Lizamore & Associates Gallery. The seminar looked at professional practice and arts development for those wanting to become career artists.


The SA Taxi Foundation Art Award has grown from 75 entries in its first year (2014/15) to 163 this year.