Contemporary Arts Society Collections Fund at Frieze 2019

Works from the living archive of South Africa's LGBT+ Community by Zanele Muholi acquired at Frieze London 2019 for the Nottingham Castle Museum & Art Gallery

This will be the most significant acquisition of Muholi’s work in the UK to date... Muholi’s participation in Documenta 13 in 2012 and in the curated section of this year’s Venice Biennale have brought them to even wider recognition, so this acquisition feels both powerful and timely — Caroline Douglas

11 works from the renowned living archive of photographs that commemorates and celebrates Black lesbians, trans and gender non-conforming individuals in South Africa have been acquired by the Contemporary Art Society at Frieze London for Nottingham Castle Museum & Art Gallery.

Entitled Faces and Phases, 2006-present, the portraits by South African artist Zanele Muholi (they/them) are an act of visual activism in a country where, although their rights are constitutionally protected, LGBT+ people are too often subject to violence and prejudice. Muholi’s process is empowering of the artist’s sitters, who are often friends, foregrounding their creativity, their presence and individuality. Muholi operates from inside the community they depict, positioning the work as a form of activism, an act of resistance that insists upon the presence of the black, queer and trans community in South Africa.

When Nottingham Castle Museum & Art Gallery re-opens in Spring 2021 following a £30million redevelopment project, the eleven photographic portraits by Muholi will be a central part of the new displays, designed to open out discussion and introduce an important international perspective on  the violence and discrimination that the LGBT+ community still faces today.

Zanele Muholi, Faces and Phases 13 2019 Installation view

Ron Inglis, Chief Operating Officer, Collections, Nottingham City Museums, said: “Nottingham City Museums has collected the work of contemporary artists since the founding of the Art Museum at Nottingham Castle in 1878. However, the addition of this powerful group of portraits by international photographer and visual activist Zanele Muholi is an especially significant addition to our Fine Art collection at the moment, when the Castle’s history of protest and popular uprising is at the forefront of its major redevelopment. We are grateful to the Contemporary Art Society and their sponsors for this generous award.”

Born in Durban and living in Johannesburg, Muholi’s self-proclaimed mission is ‘to re-write a black queer and trans visual history of South Africa for the world to know of our resistance and existence at the height of hate crimes in SA and beyond’. Muholi’s work was prominently featured at the 58th Venice Biennale and is receiving a major mid-career survey at Tate Modern in April 2020. They co-founded the Forum for Empowerment of Women (FEW) in 2002, and in 2009 founded Inkanyiso, a forum for queer and visual (activist) media. They continue to train and co-facilitate photography workshops for young women in the townships.

Caroline Douglas, Director, Contemporary Art Society, said: “The Faces and Phases series of portraits has been widely seen internationally in recent years; this will be the most significant acquisition of Muholi’s work in the UK to date.  It gives audiences in Nottingham the opportunity to see one of the most talked-about bodies of work by one of the most exciting international artists working today. Muholi’s participation in Documenta 13 in 2012 and in the curated section of this year’s Venice Biennale have brought them to even wider recognition, so this acquisition feels both powerful and timely.”

Victoria Siddall, Director, Frieze Fairs, said: “It is so meaningful for artists to enter museum collections and for their work to be seen by a broad public. We are thrilled that the CAS Fund continues at Frieze this year and that it has enabled The Nottingham Castle Museum to acquire Zanele Muholi’s powerful portraits from Stevenson Gallery.”

The Contemporary Art Society’s Collections Fund was set up in 2012 and is designed to support the acquisition of significant contemporary works for Contemporary Art Society museum members across the UK, drawing together the knowledge and experience of private collectors with that of museum curators.

The Collections Fund at Frieze was awarded to Nottingham Castle after a competitive application process open to the Contemporary Art Society’s 70 Museum Members across the UK. The work acquired through the Collections Fund at Frieze will form part of the opening displays at the museum when it re-opens in Spring 2021.

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