The overall winner, five finalists, and the merit award winner of the 2016 SA Taxi Foundation Art Award have been announced amidst a globally developing trend towards displaying and using art in mobile environments.
Illustrator, curator, and independent artist, Audrey Anderson, took the first prize of R50 000 with her ink on paper work entitled ‘Commute Quest’, which depicts daily commuting by minibus taxi as a quest for new direction and insights.
As finalists, Steven Bosch, Nkosinathi Khumalo, Wandile Mashaba, Lekau Matsena, and Wesley van Eeden each won R10 000. Mashudu Nevhutalu’s work was recognised with a merit award. Centered on the competition’s theme of ‘routes’, all the works demonstrated a positive view of South African society.
“We were enormously encouraged by the solutions-based emphasis shown by all the competition entrants,” says SA Taxi Foundation director, Kalnisha Singh. “It indicates that South Africans between the ages of 25 and 35 are upbeat about this country’s future and have the determination to address the challenges confronting our society.”
Entries for the Art Award almost doubled (from 80 to 140) from its first year (2015), with its unusual requirements of artists acting as a significant attraction. The competition differs from others in that emerging visual artists must produce a work of art and then convert it into a decal that can be used on a mini bus taxi. It therefore highlights the ability of artists to work to a commercial brief.
It also takes art to the people in an innovative way, exposing the man and woman in the street to work that they would otherwise not see. In doing so, it exposes society as a whole to creative views of its issues and triumphs.
“Another reason for more artists entering this time, is that art is becoming mobile in other regions,” Singh says. “In India, for instance, a movement has developed in which art is depicted on furniture. Also, in places like London and New York, underground rail services have begun to exploit and exhibit art in mobile ways.
“Artists are very trend aware and our award positions them to be globally relevant in a frontier space.”
In addition, the first year of the competition boosted the careers not only of the winners but of all entrants whose work was displayed at the Lizamore Gallery, which curates the Award on the Foundation’s behalf.
Singh explains that artists have seen that the value of the work of those initial entrants has increased and that this is causing ordinary South Africans to see such work as a form of affordable investment.
“Artists have understood, too, that the minibus taxi industry is an empowering environment - for commuters and operators, obviously, but also for everyone who seeks to touch the minibus community in positive ways.
“Having your art seen on the streets by thousands of people who would never have the opportunity to go to an art gallery quite literally enables you to enrich their lives and change their perspectives. That’s what artists live for.”
Singh says that the Foundation has had an increase in requests from minibus taxi operators to have the decals from this year’s winners displayed on their vehicles.
“Vehicles carrying the 2015 decals were sought out by commuters, who wanted to be seen riding in them. The decal taxis were also the focus of discussion at taxi ranks. Operators realised that the art works are a powerful form of branding and marketing.
“For us, the popularity of the taxis carrying the decals indicates that the Award is achieving its objectives of enabling art to reach a mass audience and of illustrating the transformative role the taxi industry plays in society.”