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   CULTURAL EXCHANGE: Artists discuss displays of their work in the Harlem Fine Arts Show and highlight growing partnership opportunities between American and South African artists
Mahona, manager of the South African Women’s Art Association, travels worldwide with artists to exhibit their art based on a theme. For the DC show, it’s unity and diversity. Normally, African art at galleries and museums in the United States consists of traditional artifacts made of wood or stone—great and powerful works, for sure. But these artists insist that there is so much more to the South African appeal.
“We’re quite an advanced, well not super advanced, but as far as art and creativity is concerned we’re contempo- rary, we’re not sort of stuck in the dark ages,” said painter Leila Fanner.
She said she’s not into “ugly art,” but beautiful and slight- ly disturbing art. Her mother was an artist and, at age four, Fanner picked up a brush and produced her first painting, it was abstract art “and my grandmother loved it,” she said. “She absolutely loved it and put it in her house.”
Fanner looks back on that moment as a defining one that helped her to realize that her talent has importance and the ability to make people feel special. That said, she paints for her own experience “otherwise it’ll just ruin my entire experi- ence of painting. It’s too hard to please people,” she said.
She comes to the United States at a time when African art is enjoying a surge of mass appeal around the world— with South African art in high demand among serious
investors. The South African Daily Business day said the market is booming for African art, with artists like Nicholas Hlobo of Johannesburg fetching $85,260 for one piece at auction last year.
“Contemporary African art has received much attention in the first six months of 2017,” the newspaper wrote July 6 in an online edition. “In Paris, Bernard Arnaut’s Foundation Louis Vuitton is hosting a much talked-about three-part exhibition, Art/Afrique, le nouvel, Atelier....The exhibition includes a selection of contemporary South African works from the foundation’s collection alongside pieces owned by major African art collector Jean Pigozzi.”
The South African artists coming to New York for HFAS are aware of the demand for their creations among inves- tors and collectors—but they share a belief in creating to promote empowerment.
Mixed media artist John Adams—who uses, among other things, coins, scrap metal, bullets and secondhand cameras—finds that representation matters. He states that the iconography and hallmarking of some of the past and present African and global leaders are important examples to lead the youth today. He also embraces the tribal aspect and colonialism of South Africa and calls them “strengths of influence.”

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