Expanding the Narrative of South African Art

28 February – 10 May 2008

ReVisions: Expanding the Narrative of South African Art, the first major public showing of the Campbell Smith Collection, opened at the Iziko South African National Gallery in October 2005 and closed in early 2006. The exhibition showcased this Collection to an appreciative public that was mostly unaware that what was exhibited was only just under half of what the Collection contained. Although the Iziko SA National Gallery had generously accorded this important exhibition four rooms of its extremely limited space, many of the over 470 works were never shown.

In early 2007 the long-awaited book on the Campbell Smith Collection finally appeared: a handsome 360 pages in hardcover. It documented the entire collection as it stood towards the end of 2005. The book sold remarkably well despite its weight of 2.5 kilograms. An interested public – judging by the enthusiastic sales of the book – was at last given a complete overview of the entire collection.

Plans that the exhibition seen at the Iziko SA National Gallery would embark on a national tour have not materialised. Many other public art museums in South Africa expressed a keen interest in hosting it, but unfortunately the extensive costs of this proposed tour could not be fully met. In the face of this disappointment, excitement was generated around the idea of a smaller, sequel exhibition which would highlight not only the works not shown at the Iziko SA National Gallery but, most importantly, new additions made to the Collection since 2005.

Revisions+ thus provides an opportunity for an interested public to experience at first-hand some of the works of art which they may have only seen so far in reproduction, as well as a wide range of new acquisitions. This new exhibition is generously accommodated and supported by the Stellenbosch Modern and Contemporary Gallery (SMAC).

This sequel publication only contains the new works acquired since the publication of ReVisions: Expanding the Narrative of South African Art in 2007. This new publication should be seen as an indispensable supplementary volume that makes extensive reference to the initial publication. It contains biographies on all the new artists who are now represented in the Collection, as well as in-depth discussion on newly-acquired works by artists who were already represented in the initial publication.

In writing and presenting Revisions+ as an extension to what is actually an ongoing project, I remain indebted to those whose work, advice and insight made the initial book possible. Elza Miles, Mduduzi Xakaza, Joe Dolby, Gabi Ngcobo, Mario Pissarra, Rayda Becker and Ivor Powell all assisted me in some way on this new journey. The advice and input from Bruce Campbell Smith in writing up the new biographies and in debating my own speculative analyses and interpretations of individual works of art was indispensable. I would like to thank him and Baylon Sandri, Director of the SMAC Gallery, for collaborating and creating this opportunity to examine and speculate about the new works of art included here. I would also like to thank the Suvashni Casoojee, Shaheeda Dante and Maureen Hill of the Iziko South African National Gallery Library for being so helpful in locating material.

The individual works in the Campbell Smith Collection bear the weight of in-depth analysis and art historical speculation, and this is proof of the enormous value of this exercise. It also highlights the persistent evidence that major tasks still lie ahead in researching and publishing in the area of South African art history. Revisions+ is offered in this broader cause. It is also, I trust, proof that there can be some virtue in a sequel.

Hayden Proud
Cape Town, February 2008