The FNB Vita Art Prize was launched in Johannesburg some four years ago. The founding principles for this visual art prize are to promote contemporary art in South Africa and to provoke interest and debate around new artistic developments. The selection of the commissioned artists includes input by the general public who can nominate artists they think deserve recognition and a panel of visual art experts who make the final decision re who to commission. The selected artists must have exhibited work during the past year. The panel includes Nathi Khanyile, Pat Mautloa, Willem Boshoff, Virginia MacKenny and Natasha Fuller.
The commissioning fees to the six nominated artists have increased substantially this year, aided by a generous contribution by the Goodman Gallery. The winner of this year’s event will receive a cash prize of R35 000.00. The NSA Gallery is the first venue to host the FNB VITA Art Prize in its move to present the prize annually in other South African centres. The commitment of FNB VITA to initiate broader dialogue confirms the institution’s focus not only in awarding excellence in the arts, but also towards the dissemination of contemporary art discourse within a wider community.
A full colour catalogue will accompany the exhibition with contributions by James Sey, Clive Kellner and Rosalind Morris. The NSA Gallery will also run an extensive educational programme during the exhibition.
The first commissioned artist is Kim Lieberman, who is nominated for her exhibition BLOOD RELATIVES. Born in Johannesburg, Lieberman obtained a National Diploma in Fine Art from Witwatersrand Technikon, which she followed with B Tech Degree (Fine Arts) from the same institution. She is currently doing an MA (Fine Art) at Witwatersrand University.
BLOOD RELATIVES was Lieberman’s 3rd solo exhibition. In recent years she has participated in numerous groups shows both in South Africa and internationally.
Clive van den Berg has been nominated for an exhibition that featured new multimedia works at the Goodman Gallery last year. Van den Berg was born in Kitwe, Zambia and studied for a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree at the University of Natal. After lecturing in Durban for several years at the University of Natal, Pietermaritzburg and the Technikon Natal in Durban, he joined the Fine Arts Department at the University of the Witwatersrand in 1989. Van Den Berg has been exhibiting both locally and internationally for many years, and is currently the Visual Arts co-ordinator for the Klein Karoo National Arts Festival, amongst others.
Jan van der Merwe, the third commissioned artist, is Pretoria-based and is a senior lecturer at the Arts Faculty, Technikon Pretoria. He has been nominated for the work WEFT AND WARF seen at the Civic Gallery, Johannesburg, last year. Van der Merwe, has over the past few years been producing art works in which he incorporates found objects, images, junk materials- objects inherited, bought, picked up. He says that the shapes and textures of these objects, coupled with images, memories and sentiments, serve as a starting point of the art making process.
Kathryn Smith, the fourth nominee was born in Durban in 1975, relocating to Johannesburg in 1994 and completed her MA (FA) in 1999 at Wits University. She currently works as an independent artist, writer. Career highlights thus far include travelling to Iceland for A.R.E.A 2000 (Museum of Art, Reykjavik), exhibiting and key-note speaker for open-circuit exhibition and conference at the NSA Gallery in 2000, co-curating Two Icons - The Atom, The Body with James Say for Urban Futures 2000 and curating the 1998 exhibition Histories of the Present.
Moshekwa Langa, who is currently based in the Netherlands, has been commissioned for the exhibition held at the Goodman Gallery. Langa has featured in an hour long documentary about Africa and modernism which was was aired in Belgium, Austria, Germany and France. He has a solo exhibition at Centre d’Art Contemporain, Geneva in February 1999 and has been presented at the Sao Paolo Biennale, amongst others.
Robin Rhode, is the sixth artist to be commissioned for the FNB Vita Art Prize 2001. A graduate of the Technikon Witwatersrand, Roode has exhibited in several groups exhibitions in both South African and abroad. In a statement, Roode says” I have been working extensively with video and performance art, showing a keen interest in the depiction of my social identity by recording frames of reference. I try to reoccupy spaces with a presence previously excluded, combining an uncomfortable criticality with popular reference”.