Cape Town artist Kate Arthur has won the 2017 Sanlam Portrait Award for her portrait Genna & Felix (79.5 x 119.5cm, oil on canvas). The award, which aims to celebrate and showcase the best original portrait artwork in South Africa, was announced at a ceremony at Rust-en-Vrede Art Gallery in Durbanville this week. The Sanlam Portrait Award is sponsored by Sanlam Private Wealth, in partnership with Rust-en-Vrede Art Gallery.
Not only did Arthur’s winning portrait beat 1 437 entries to the top prize of R100 000, but another entry by the same artist also made it into the top five portraits – her work entitled Kwena (100 x 65.5cm, oil on canvas). The winning portrait will join 39 other selected entries in an exhibition to be held at Rust-en-Vrede Art Gallery until 18 October.
Stefan Hundt, head of the Sanlam Private Wealth art advisory service and convenor of the judging panel, commended the judges for their ‘exceptional dedication in making a very difficult decision given the number and quality of entries received this year’. The judging is done ‘blind’ in the sense that the judges do not know the identity of the artists.
The independent panel consisted of Peter Monkman (an accomplished artist and regular art competition judge, including the BP Portrait Award), Carl Jeppe (a judge and artist whose work is represented in collections worldwide), and Nkule Mabaso (an acclaimed artist and curator at Michaelis Galleries, University of Cape Town).
‘Genna & Felix is a seemingly simple portrait of two individuals, but it is emotionally charged, with a tense ambiguity which confronts the viewer head-on, eliciting a feeling of some discomfort,’ Stefan says. He adds that portraits such as this one, which engage the viewer intellectually and emotionally, are what make portraiture still relevant and exciting today.
Arthur with her winning portrait entitled Genna & Felix (79.5 x 119.5cm, oil on canvas)
Arthur (32), who grew up in the Eastern Cape, has lived in Cape Town since 2014. She obtained a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Rhodes University in 2007 and works predominantly in mediums of painting, drawing and printmaking. She’s interested in portraiture, identity and representations of the body, and has participated in a number of group shows and art fairs around South Africa. Arthur was a finalist in the 2015 Sanlam Portrait Award.
Daniël Kriel, CEO of Sanlam Private Wealth, says the outstanding quality and standard of the entries is testament to the range and depth of talent South Africa has to offer. ‘Portraiture in South Africa has had a rich, and at times controversial history that reflects our country’s social and political evolution. It’s within this context that we established the biennial Sanlam Portrait Award in partnership with the Rust-en-Vrede Art Gallery.’
Daniël says art is a passion for many SPW clients, and it is of increasing investment interest. ‘We feel particularly connected to the platform of portraiture, since it resonates with our vision. Our expertise lies in wealth management, where we nurture close personal relationships with our clients. In the same way, there are few things more intimate than the relationship between the artist and the subject in a portrait.’
This year’s Sanlam Portrait Award was the third since it was launched in 2013. KwaZulu-Natal artist Heather Gourlay-Conyngham walked off with the top prize for her nude male portrait entitled A Young Man (177 x 80cm, oil on canvas) in the 2013 competition. The 2015 winner was Cape Town artist John Pace, for After the Match (100 x 80cm, oil on canvas).
‘Our congratulations extend to all the artists selected for the Top 40 and all the other entrants,’ Daniël says. ‘We’ve again been overwhelmed by the sheer talent of our South African portrait artists. Above all, congratulations to our 2017 Sanlam Portrait Award winner, Kate Arthur.’
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