South African Pavilion controversy at Venice continues Venice

September 26, 2011

South Africa’s 54th Venice Biennale pavilion ignited debate months ago when the blog Panga Management announced that commissioning curator Lethole Mokoena was actually a pseudonym for gallerist Monna Mokoena.

Lyndi Sales and Mary Sibande, two of the three artists whose works are on view in the pavilion, are represented by Mokoena’s Gallery MOMO. They are joined by Siemon Allen. Zwelethu Mthethwa was initially selected as the fourth exhibiting artist, but withdrew his participation due to “a lack of transparency.”

The Art Newspaper reports this week about the continuing controversy. Heated exchanges between Cape TownUniversity professor Malcolm Payne and the Visual Arts Network of South Africa (Vansa), a development agency funded by the National Arts Council, brought new details to light. No public information exists about how the DAC (Department of Art and Culture) financed the pavilion after a sixteen-year hiatus. The DAC also refuses to answer whether Mokoena is a friend of Paul Mashatile, the arts and culture minister. They defended Mokoena’s right to include represented artists in the pavilion, but conceded that the organization of the pavilion was “rushed.”

A public statement by Vansa declared that it did not want to focus unduly on the current situation, but rather that it would be “substantially more concerned with the ways these decisions and investments will be made in the future.”

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