SculptX, the largest annual sculpture fair in South Africa, run from 30 August to 29 September 2019 at Melrose Arch. Over 200 artworks created by more than 90 established and emerging sculptors will be showcased in indoor and outdoor spaces throughout the Melrose Arch Precinct. These include The Melrose Gallery, the Daytona showroom, Stanlib, the African Pride Hotel, Letsema Holdings, One On Whiteley, the Galleria and other public spaces.
SculptX was formed by The Melrose Gallery, in association with Melrose Arch to provide a valuable platform to promote sculpture and sculptors to those who live, work and play in the precinct, as well as art collectors and enthusiasts in general. Sculpture has seen a strong increase in demand over the last five years, leading to the establishment of many new foundries. But there has traditionally been under-representation of sculpture created by female artists and those from the previously disadvantaged communities which we hope to positively impact on. This exhibition provides emerging sculptors with the opportunity to exhibit alongside established artists.
Participating artists include such notables as Noria Mabasa, Willie Bester, Pitika Ntuli, Vusi Khumalo, Wilma Cruise, Gordon Froud, Adejoke Tugbiyele and Strijdom van der Merwe.
Megan Theunissen and Ruzy Rusike, the curators, have considered more than 350 works in order to select over 200 sculptures for showcase this year. These come from different cities throughout South Africa and include numerous mediums ranging from bronze, steel, found objects and stone to wood, crystal, glass, grass, fibreglass, carbon fibre and even virtual reality. Theunissen and Rusike expand on the process below.
How did it start?
When we established The Melrose Gallery, three years ago, we noticed the ever-increasing interest in sculpture. Many new foundries have been established in the last six years to service this increased demand. The Melrose Arch precinct is perfectly suited to large sculptural work and their management team loved the idea of us activating public spaces for the benefit of those who work, live and play in the area. The idea of SculptX was born out of the desire to service our clients, the beautification of the precinct and the promotion of an extremely talented base of sculptors.
How has it grown?
SculptX has experienced phenomenal growth since it’s inception in 2017. We are showcasing over 200 sculptures by more than 90 artists from all over South Africa this year. It has seen growth not only in terms of submissions, but in terms of the number of people who have confirmed for the opening and interest from the media and other people and entities involved in the arts. We have also had Stanlib, Letsema Holdings, The African Pride Hotel, Daytona and Melrose Arch agreeing to host satellite exhibitions this year, which has allowed us accept more entries and to expose the works to larger audiences.
What does SculptX offer that is unique?
While sculpture as an art form in itself was practiced from the earliest times in Africa, the costs have resulted in the exclusion of females and artists from the previously disadvantaged sectors. SculptX has focused much attention on providing opportunities for artists from these sectors to expose their works and creates a situation in which they do so alongside many established names. Because this is deemed a fair and a platform to promote sculpture and sculptors at large, we are able to take some liberties that may be frowned upon in the curation of solo or group exhibitions. This is in terms of the number of works on display and in the mixing of talented but relatively unknown artists with those who already have a strong reputation. The established artists draw the media and the collectors and they are at the same time exposed to works by emerging artists whom they would often not get the chance to experience. We also run the Sculpture Dialogues, which consist of a panel discussion and a talks programme presented by sculptors and experts in the sector. These are open to the public free of charge.
How is this year’s event female focused?
We have focused attention on including female artists and it is our intention to grow on this from year to year. There are many female artists represented including some of South Africa’s most respected and some exciting stars from the continent, but what is most exciting is the talented young guard who will be presenting works this year.
We are excited to be showcasing works by Mam Noria Mabasa, one of South Africa’s most globally acclaimed sculptors. Johannes Maswanganyi, the famed Tsonga/ Shangaan sculptor who also resides in Limpopo, has entered some large new works. Adejoke Tugbiyele, the multi award-winning artist from the US with Nigerian heritage, has submitted a wonderful large major work made from the straw of brooms that is a must see. David Brits is unveiling, for the first time, a monumental 3m-high modern abstract work in a style that took him over three years to perfect and which is sure to attract much attention. Professor Pitika Ntuli is unveiling several new works that have taken several years to carve from black granite. Jenna Burchell will exhibit a sculpture from her Songsmith series, which emits a sound when one stands near it. Philiswa Lila, the Gerard Sekoto and ABSA L’Atelier winner who has recently returned from her residency at Cite’s in Paris, will showcase several contemporary works inspired by her isiXhosa culture. Willie Bester, Ndabuko Ntuli and Thabo Pitso will all astound with their powerful works made from found objects such as scrap metal and trash.
What about the public works?
We will be showcasing over 15 large works in public and other areas throughout the precinct. These range from monumental works carved from granite by Pitika Ntuli; a large cone piece by Gordon Froud; a 3m-high modern work made from carbon fibre and other interesting mediums by David Brits; a larger-than-life bronze work by Keith Calder; steel illuminated works by Louis Chanu; a metal fountain by Seth and Claire Falconer and a large than life size bronze by Cobus Haupt.
Is sculpture underrated as an artistic medium?
Art tastes and focus change depending on many factors and influences. At one time it may be more focused on painting and another on a different medium. We are experience a strong demand for sculpture pr-sently and this can be seen in the increasing number of foundries that have been established in the last few years. Modern homes and offices often have larger windows, thereby limiting wall space and this is also adding to the increased demand for free standing three-dimensional works.