Winners of the Inaugural SA Taxi Foundation Art Awards announced
Judges laud first of its kind award for embedding artistic expression in daily existence.
Five finalists and a winner have been announced for the first SA Taxi Foundation Art Award, marking the first cross over between art and graphic design as an award criterion and the first time art will be taken to the public as a moving exhibition – on minibus taxis.
Artists were tasked with creating a work of art around the theme of ‘destination’ and then interpreting that work as a decal to be carried on minibus taxis.
The winner of the competition, Tshepo Mosapa, receives a cash prize of R50 000. Each of the five finalists, Alison Riordan, Bev Butkow, Hiten Mohanlal Bawa, Khanyisa Dada, and Ross Passmoor receive a cash prize of R10 000. In addition to their art work being displayed at the Lizamore & Associates Gallery in Rosebank, Johannesburg, each artist’s winning graphic design will also be displayed on 10 minibus taxis in different areas of the country for a period of 12 months.
Art critic, historian, and mentor, Mary Corrigall, one of the three judges of the competition, says that the SA Taxi Foundation Art Award will have the effect of democratising art.
“The transience of the art, which will be seen in flashes as its moving canvas weaves in and out of traffic, lends it a different kind of value; ‘embedding’ artistic expression into the fabric of people’s lives.
“This allows the art to function as something that is not object-based – something to be acquired, admired and ‘understood’ – but as part of daily existence. Apart from giving the six finalists a chance to affirm the value of their work to society, the process triggered by this award challenges our creative industry as a whole to think beyond conventional ways of displaying design and art.”
Award winning public artist, Donna Kukama, another of the judges, feels that the award creates a rare connection among different cultures and societies within South Africa, with unexpected links being forged between the minibus taxi industry with its millions of black commuter customers and the high art community normally restricted to formal galleries and middle and upper class white patrons.
“It is rare, if not nearly impossible to come across art awards that require artists to be fluent in both the language of the gallery space as well as that of the public sphere.
“The type of artist that this award attracts and recognises is one that is able to not only creatively manipulate what has been accepted as our reality, but also someone with the skill to translate concepts across worlds that were previously perceived as miles apart.”
Dion Chang, innovation and trend specialist and founder of Flux Trends, said in his notes for the catalogue that accompanies the Lizamore & Associates Gallery exhibition of the finalists’ work: “Placing art works on taxis – the mode of transport that so many millions of South African’s rely on – is a stroke of genius.
“The SA Taxi Foundation should be applauded for embarking on this initiative, as well as their right brain thinking. Placing artworks on mini-bus taxis brings the art world out of its perceived ivory tower and onto the streets – where it can initiate recognition of the creative economy.
“It is only recently that governments have started to acknowledge the contribution the creative industries make to a country’s GDP. Formerly silo’ed industries like the art and business worlds are starting to converge, collaborate, and coexist, but it is a tentative and wary dance. Embedding art – and in this case, moving art – into the lives and minds of South Africans who might not otherwise be exposed to the emotive role of art could leap frog perceptions and awareness. That can only have positive spin offs.”
Kalnisha Singh, director of the SA Taxi Foundation, said the organisers were gratified to have more than 80 entries in the award’s first year. “Much older art competitions rarely have more than 200 entries. Clearly, the art world understands and appreciates our objective of providing a solid and credible platform, through a juried and curated exhibition held at a reputable gallery, through which emerging artists can contribute to their career building efforts.
“Specifically, they appreciate that we are doing so by enabling fresh consideration of the role of the artist in both industry and society.
“For us, the award broadens our active citizenry beyond the financing of minibus taxis and, thereby, incubating small businesses. It enables us to implement another sustainable project that contributes to the communities within which we operate – and to leave people better off as a result of our being involved.”
The judges were unanimous in naming Pretoria born Tshepo Masopo as the first winner of the SA Taxi Foundation Art Award. He was also the first recipient of the Reinhold Cassirer Award (2011) supported by Nadine Gordimer at the Bag Factory Artists Studio, has won a number of other art awards, and has participated in local and international residencies. He is full time resident artist at the Bag Factory Artist Studios.
His winning artwork, Transit, depicts people in the various attitudes they adopt when riding in minibus taxis.
Finalist Bev Butkow, married mother of four and a certified accountant, gave up her formal career at the age of 40 to devote herself to art. She seeks to integrate her community work into her art. Part of the proceeds from the sale of her work goes towards community projects.
Profoundly deaf Hiten Mohanlal Bawa is an architect in training with a focus on universal design consultancy. He is committed to improving accessibility in the built environment and challenging socio-cultural attitudes and perceptions towards people with disabilities.
Khanyisa Dada, a Johannesburg raised and Cape Town based art student in her third year of visual art at the University of Cape Town’s Michaelis School focuses on sculpture but is also a skilled painter and digital illustrator.
Raised in Hilton near Pietermaritzburg, Ross Passmoor initially studied ceramics at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, going on to achieve his Masters Degree (Cum Laude) focusing primarily on printmaking. After teaching for a while in Durban, he moved to Johannesburg to pursue a career in art and has had residencies at Assemblage Studios and the Bag Factory studios in Newton.
Alison Riordan, a graphic designer from Cape Town, has worked in advertising agencies locally and overseas and has sold her work in Canada, Australia, and Europe. Her artworks have been made into mosaics by Spier Arts Academy.
The judges made two special awards, one to fourth year art student, Banele Khoza, for outstanding artwork and the other to graphic designer, Kingsley Palime, for outstanding decal design.