In the art scene, 13 is definitely rather on the darker side of the rainbow – but not without some cheerfulness, sarcasm or subtle humour. I personally don’t know of any art which I perceived as disgusting or repellent – but I know various people who got short of breath when looking at my collection – or their laughter got stuck in their throats. What they all had in common was the lack of understanding how anyone could possibly surround or drape oneself with drawings like that. You don’t hang something like this up in your lounge. But, of course, yes – you can!
Obviously I am a bit provocative as well – and yes – I want to tackle their curiosity. The art and music “in 13” form common intersections on quite different levels. If you look at the range on offer, it is clear that it is not necessarily mainstream-compatible – but it doesn’t have to. Here you won’t find any mass-produced 5.1 home theatre system or mock Hi-Fi, and also no pictures of picturesque landscapes, portraits of strangers or “silent” still live paintings.
You can hardly argue about art – that’s a known fact and doesn’t have to be revisited. Art touches ourminds in very different ways, tickles or overwhelms our senses; it brings joy or makes you think and evokes a wide spectrum of possible emotions – and reactions.
The “battered” picture of South African president Jacob Zuma is a very good example for an exaggerated form of perception, reaction – or let’s call it “interaction” of an angered viewer. The artist could not have hoped for anything better – after all, his rather weak work only gained (short-term) expression power and publicity. The work was sold to a German collector in Bavaria and I can remember various calls from friends and acquaintances who assumed I was the buyer.
But no – it definitely wasn’t me!
Similar reactions – without the attention and spreading by the media – were caused by the “Serpentine Kiss” of Verna du Toit at an exhibition in early 2013 in Oudtshoorn. This almost frighteningly “real” picture prompted whole groups of “strictly religious Christians” and their bibles to return to the exhibition rooms. Their faces were showing sheer horror about what they had just seen and their determination to act against it now! So they all gathered in front of the picture and prayed to God in order to cast Satan out of it.
The Serpentine Kiss is definitely a grand work with tremendous narrative power. It uses ancient elements which we know from the Old Testament. The good as well as the evil as the arc of suspense, the seduction, the dedication, the lust, the sin and shame – the guilt and the innocence, the ultimate judgment of which we prefer to leave to a higher power.
Heaven or hell? The numerous visitors of the exhibition were, without exception, fascinated by the work of the most talented South African artist in this day and time. Verna du Toit is an amiable, fun-loving and life-affirming personality who puts herself and us in front of a mirror – and in this mirror, to our horror, we can vaguely see our deepest inner conflicts. This work of Verna du Toit was also sold to a German collector and gallery-owner from Bavaria – and in this case your assumption is correct – yes – this time I was the lucky buyer. The extraordinary work has its place in the rooms of “13” now.
I have collected the more and more surreal works of Verna du Toit with great passion for a few years now. Like the other South African artists which I ardently represent and display, she is an exciting and promising insider tip – although one needs to know that Verna du Toit has sold all of her numerous works without any exception. Today you can find her works all over the world – and I don’t have to worry about her successful future.
One of the most remarkable South African artists is Alexander Lochenkov from Leningrad (St. Petersburg). Luckily – or unfortunately, “Sasha” as we call him, is the maybe best kept secret in the whole South African art scene. Sasha is “one in a thousand” – a restless master, an artist without allures and extravagance. As a person and artist, Sasha is a real exception to me. In certain ways he is a (lovable) overall work of art himself – not to be mistaken with those artists who mutate into a PR campaign for their own person and interests – and who often – legitimate or not – are successful with it.
Sasha’s knowledge of the world is huge – and too small is the timeframe in which Sasha will have a chance to express his thoughts. He is working restlessly and nearly obsessively in order to release all his pictures and stories on a canvas and to free himself through this – and I think “release” is the only applicable word to truly describe Sasha’s work in an exact manner. Art starts in the head and there you will find the source of absorbing picture, colours and stories. In Sasha’s case it is a rapid river with no shores that carves deep grooves into the landscape with his relentless impact and power.
A prominent collector and art connoisseur from Cologne feels reminded of Neo Rauch by Sasha’s works. In my opinion the art of Alexander Lochenkov is difficult to compare or to level with the works of other artists – but I would, without any doubt, rank him as a brilliant outsider – like for example Otto Dix, Edvard Munch, Bosch and Brueghel.
Same goes for Sasha’s former wife Anastasia Nikolsky. Also originating from St. Petersburg, she is developing into a fantastic artist for the last few years – like a wonderful, colourful butterfly. Although, Anastasia Nikolsky is by no means a stranger in the art world. Thanks to her, numerous paintings of old South African artists were given back their old radiance. Her knowledge in the field, her talent and her diligence are highly valued amongst the collectors of precious paintings. But unlike Sasha, she is much more patient – and the unbelievably fine details of her own work forbid any other approach than with utmost dedication, discipline and the talent of a master to fulfil the always difficult tasks successfully. So frequently the completion of one of her paintings takes up to 6 months.
“The Labyrinth” is a creation that took Anastasia even a full year to paint – and in this labyrinth a whole parallel-world has developed, dark but nevertheless cute, where gnomes, mythical creatures and daemons follow their rituals in countless, partially hidden scenes. And as creepy or strange her creatures may seem – somehow they very much resemble us humans. The “Labyrinth” contains so many stories that it probably takes weeks to “travel” this fascinating world.
Obviously it is only my personal evaluation and belief when I say that especially the works of Alexander Lochenkov and Anastasia Nikolsky will be found in museums of this world one day – because this is where they should be displayed and this is where they will get the appreciation, esteem and respect they deserve.
From a commercial aspect, their art is difficult to promote – but the same goes for many creations of today’s well-known artists: Anyone, who for example may think that “The Scream” of Edvard Munch was “liked” by the art-connoisseurs and “experts” of his time – is wrong. Today this painting, as so many others, is hardly payable with money anymore. At the end of a generation of artists, there is always only a small percentage that outlasts the centuries.
In art as well as in music, at “13” you will always meet incorrigible enthusiasts “still open to the world”. Their own enthusiasm and conviction are the sole measure – a measure that has a hard time making its way in today’s art-biz.
We are not aligning our portfolio towards an allegedly better taste or a better, more elitist clientele – rather our portfolio only attracts a very specific taste which is, as mentioned before, not mass-compatible at all.
Last but not least! Christiaan Diedericks! His creations start mirrored in his head – a very clever and likeable head – and mirrored stays the whole process of cutting Christiaan’s pictures and thoughts in linoleum or etching them into copper.
The prints and editions of Christiaan Diedericks – always limited to a few samples – are created in an extremely complex, very loving way, filled with numerous details. With an extreme power of observation, unhidden love to people of any religion, race or sexuality – but never without mixing in a generous portion of humour and wit – Christiaan shows people, situations and resulting connections in an always new and fantastic context. Recently his creations have gained more and more attention on an international level. Christiaan is steadily on the go – travelling for his art. From the Biennale in Breslau to the Biennale in Venice. Christiaan searches and finds inspiration – while being inspiring himself.
Christiaan Diedericks, Anastasia Nikolsky, Alexander Lochenkov and Verna du Toit are the core and matter, showing the general orientation of Gallery 13. But obviously you will also find the works of other interesting South African artists. 13 wants to stay enthralling in a relaxed way, and so we ourselves are very excited to meet new names, faces and personalities whom we will meet in future – or who will be presenting their art to us.