Exhibition explores Dada influence

Iziko Museums of South Africa
10/30/2009 09:46:42

In Dada South? South African artworks from the 1960s to the present are exhibited alongside a collection of artworks and publications by historical Dada artists.

The exhibition will be held at the Iziko South African National Gallery Rooms 10, 9, 8, 7 from 12 December 2009 to 28 February 2010.

The juxtaposition invites a fresh enquiry into South African artistic production by highlighting some similarities in method, strategy and imagery, between socially critical South African art and the art of Dada.

In Dada South? curators Roger van Wyk and Kathryn Smith consider the legacy of socially critical and experimental South African art in relation to the influence of Dada. Many people are familiar with South African ‘resistance art', produced in the late 1970s to early 1990s, which deals with political subject matter in a direct way. Dada South? is a chance to broaden this view to include art which criticises and mocks any political and social forms and institutions. It is also an occasion to reconsider the influence of non-western cultures on Dada activities.

Dada was started by refugees and renegade artists in Zürich, Switzerland, during World War One. Their provocative activities were a reaction to the horror of the war, and the social and political systems that were responsible for its unnecessary carnage. In their attempts to break free from western European logic and aesthetic traditions, including the idea of the artist as genius, Dada artists embraced chaos and chance as part of their artistic strategy. They experimented with poetry, craft and ritual performance, and were influenced by the cultural practices and art of Africa and North America. Dada has left a lasting legacy in contemporary art practice, particularly the experimental art movements of the 1960s and 1970s. This is when Dada ideas began to influence South African artists.

The diverse legacy of Dada may be traced in the production of a range of South African artists: from 1970s works by Walter Battiss, Wopko Jensma, and Kevin Atkinson; to 1980s works by Lucas Seage, Neil Goedhals and Jane Alexander; followed by the transition to democracy period with works of Kendell Geers and Candice Breitz, among others; and the many contemporary artistic positions by the likes of artists such as Robin Rhode, Moshekwa Langa, Nicholas Hlobo, Christain Nerf and Donna Kukama. The tendency for loose collective collaborations that was prominent in the 1980s with initiatives like Possession Arts has again resurfaced in collective groups such as Gugulective and Avant Car Guard, all of which carry a trace of Dada.

This is a unique opportunity to view South African works that carry the Dada influence together with a selection of original Dada artworks and publications from prominent European collections in South Africa for the first time. The exhibition includes a rare collection of original collages by the prominent female Dada artist, Hannah Höch, dating from 1918 to the 1960s. Other Dada artists represented include: Marcel Janco, Sophie Täuber-Arp, Hans Arp, Hans Richter, George Grosz, Raoul Hausmann, John Heartfield, Marcel Duchamp and Man Ray.

International loans come from collections including:

The Institute For Foreign Cultural Relations, Stuttgart; Berlin Gallery, Landes Museum Berlin; John Heartfield Archive of the Academy of Arts, Berlin; Goethe-Institut Collection, Munich; Kunsthaus Zürich; Bellerive Museum, Zürich Museum of Design; Centre Pompidou, Musée national d'art moderne collections, Paris; De Stijl Archives, Netherlands Institute for Art History, Den Haag

Dada South? is made possible through a partnership with the Goethe-Institut and the support of the National Arts Council of South Africa, Pro Helvetia, Mondriaan Foundation, Culturesfrance and others.

For more information contact Andrea Lewis:, 083 680 4038 (sms only) Or Nadja Daehnke:, 021 467 4673, 082 316 5272.

For images contact Linda Stupart on, 021 461 9620

Iziko Museums of Cape Town is a non-profit organisation partially funded by the National Department of Arts and Culture. Funding support from individual, corporate and donor sponsors enables the organisation to ensure the widest possible public access to Iziko Museums of Cape Town collections and sites. Plans in the pipeline include the imminent 2009 opening of the Iziko Social History Centre, to be located at the former National Mutual Building on Church Square, Cape Town. The twelve Iziko Museums, each with their own history and character, are:

Natural History: Iziko South African Museum; Iziko Planetarium
Art History: Iziko South African National Gallery; Iziko Michaelis Collection
Social History: Iziko Slave Lodge; Iziko at the Castle of Good Hope; Iziko Groot Constantia; Iziko Bo-Kaap Museum; Iziko Koopmans-De Wet House; Iziko Bertram House; Iziko Rust en Vreugd; Iziko Maritime Centre

Visit the website or call the general enquires number on 021 481 3800. Entrance to Iziko Museums is free to children under 16 - and free to everyone on certain commemorative days, except for the Castle of Good Hope.

Editor's Notes

Commemorative Days - Free Entrance
National Aids Awareness Day: 1 December
Emancipation Day: 1 December
Human Rights Day: 21 March
Freedom Day: 27 April
International Museum Day: 18 May
Africa Day: 25 May
Youth Day: 16 June
National Women's Day: 9 August
Heritage Week: 22 - 28 September

Issued by:
Linda Stupart
021 464 3292
On behalf of: Office of the CEO, Iziko Museums of Cape Town

Related Venue:
Iziko Museums of South Africa, Cape Town Western Cape South Africa