Iziko showcases a 50-year friendship

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Guests listening to the key note address by Dr Ashraf Jamal, in the Friends50 exhibition hall, Iziko South African National Gallery. Photograph by Melody Kleinsmith, Iziko Museums of South Africa.
Guests listening to the key note address by Dr Ashraf Jamal, in the Friends50 exhibition hall, Iziko South African National Gallery. Photograph by Melody Kleinsmith, Iziko Museums of South Africa.

Iziko Museums of South Africa marked a fifty-year relationship with the Friends of the Iziko South African National Gallery (FONG), with the recent launch of the exhibition: “Friends50.” The exhibition highlights selections from over 300 works, which form part of the S A National Gallery’s permanent collections, acquired through support by the Friends over the past five decades.

The Friends of Iziko SA National Gallery, a not-for-profit membership-based organisation, have supported the institution in its role as South Africa’s premier public national art museum, through full-or-partial-funding of acquisitions, as well as a variety of educational and conservation initiatives since 1968.

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The role played by the Friends in securing some of the now-iconic works of art in its collection has proved crucial over the years. Two etchings – from the series entitled Domestic Scenes – by the then-young and relatively unknown William Kentridge – in 1981, are some of the astute acquisitions on show.

Guests listening to the key note address by Dr Ashraf Jamal, in the Friends50 exhibition hall, Iziko South African National Gallery. Photograph by Melody Kleinsmith, Iziko Museums of South Africa.
Guests listening to the key note address by Dr Ashraf Jamal, in the Friends50 exhibition hall, Iziko South African National Gallery. Photograph by Melody Kleinsmith, Iziko Museums of South Africa.

The SA National Gallery’s relationship with the Friends is a significant and mutually beneficial partnership. The establishment of the Friends Choice Collection, in 1974, focused on collecting works by younger South African artists. This collection was largely transferred into the Gallery’s permanent collection after 1992, following the reshaping and broadening of the Gallery’s formal collecting policies.

During the apartheid era the Friends were instrumental in the acquisition of works by then-unacknowledged black artists. Purchases that were funded included works by Azaria Mbatha, Allina Ndebele, Linda Nolutshungu and others associated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church Art and Craft Centre at Rorke’s Drift, KwaZulu-Natal. The Friends have consistently supported the Gallery’s policy of addressing the under-representation of young black artists in its collections; with notable examples being the purchase of major sculptural works by the acclaimed Mary Sibande, Gerald Machona and Maurice Mbikayi.

Apart from celebrating their support for acquisitions, the Friends have provided finance for education programmes, especially for disadvantaged schools, as well as important work in the area of conservation in relation to the Gallery’s diverse permanent collection.

Friends50, an exhibition celebrating 50 years of the Friends of Iziko South African National Gallery and its support of the Gallery’s mission to acquire, to educate and to conserve, runs until 4 November 2018.

For the duration of the exhibition the Friends have a calendar of events which will focus on themes drawn from the exhibition. Programme details will be made available online on the Friends of the Iziko South African National Gallery website; visit www.friendsofsang.co.za

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