The Joburg Contemporary Art Foundation (JCAF) announces’ Kahlo, Sher-Gil, Stern: Modernist Identities in the Global South’. The exhibition features the works of three seminal women artists, Frida Kahlo, Amrita Sher-Gil and Irma Stern, together in South Africa and in Africa, for the first time.
Fritz Henle, Frida in her studio (1943). Courtesy Fritz Henle Estate
Expounding on the lives and practices of these Modernist women artists – all of whom had careers that overlapped for a period of eleven years – the exhibition aims to reposition their contribution to the rewriting of art history through their pioneering artistic production.
It’s incredibly exciting that the public will see a Frida Kahlo in South Africa for the very first time. They will also be introduced to the work of Modernist Indian painter Amrita Sher-Gil and, from a completely fresh perspective, explore local artist Irma Stern – whose portrayal of black women, argues art historian LaNitra M. Berger, was central to her conception of modern art in South Africa.
“The exhibition is what I call a ‘big show in a small space’,” says Clive Kellner, Executive Director of JCAF. “It begins with a macro view of large-scale black-and-white wallpapers, moves into the biographical – containing the artists’ life stories encompassing photographs, film, objects and diaries – and ends in portraits and self-portraits of identity construction.”
Umrao Singh Sher-Gil, Amrita at her easel. Simla, India, (1937). Courtesy The Estate of Umrao Singh Sher-Gil and PHOTOINK.
What’s particularly magical about this exhibition is that the viewer is led through an intricately designed and colour-coded biographical narrative that tells a full story of each artist’s life and work, culminating in a single painting by each artist.
Frida Kahlo was born in Coyoacán, Mexico City, Mexico, to an immigrant German father, Wilhelm (Guillermo) Kahlo, and an indigenous-Spanish mother, Matilde Calderón. Amrita Sher-Gil was born in Budapest, Hungary, to an aristocratic Sikh Indian father, Umrao Singh Sher-Gil, and a Hungarian-Jewish mother, Marie Antoinette Gottesmann. Irma Stern was born in Schweizer-Reneke, (then) Transvaal, South Africa, to immigrant German-Jewish parents.
Irma Stern in her studio (1936). Courtesy National Library of South Africa, Cape Town.
‘Kahlo, Sher-Gil, Stern: Modernist Identities in the Global South’ examines the constructions of ‘cosmopolitan’ and ‘indigenous’ identities through portraiture and self-portraiture. The exhibition contextualises the locations where the artists produced from at a particular point and provides an archive of their experiences, inspiration and collections during this time. It offers an immersive and intimate experience with an iconic artwork by each artist.
This is the third and final exhibition that concludes JCAF’s first research theme ‘Female Identities in the Global South’. The exhibition is on view from the 25th of October 2022 until the 22nd of February 2023. For more information, please visit Joburg Art Foundation.