#TimeLine opened on Monday night at The Lovell Gallery in Woodstock. The exhibition is a public showcase of the extensive personal art collection of Elad Kirshenbaum, otherwise known as Onek.
Elad’s involvement in the creative regeneration of Woodstock and his passion for Street Art are apparent throughout the collection of works on show, which features local and international artists including Shepard Fairey, Faith47, Dran, Paul Senyol, Asha Zero, Swoon, and Bruce Mackay.
We got chatting to Elad to find out his thoughts on street art, collecting and Woodstock. Here’s our Q&A:
Between 10and5: What was the first piece of art you ever owned and how long have you been collecting?
Elad Kirshenbaum (Onek): I have been a Collector all my life…from the toys you get in KinderJoys, to movie posters, to bikes, to skateboards…but I’m a relatively new art collector. This all started with the first piece I bought in 2008, which was an Asha Zero painting – I was fascinated by his technique. I believe that being a collector is in your DNA; it’s just who you are. It is your collections that change and evolve over time; they tell your story.
10and5: Are there any general themes that are noticeable in the collection?
Elad: Looking at all the works together in a gallery, there is a strong Street Art theme that runs through the collection. This wasn’t a conscious decision – but rather a result of the fact that my collection has grown from my passion to be actively involved in my own surroundings. Street Art is the natural extension of that philosophy.
10and5: What are the deciding factors when you choose a piece to own?
Elad: I buy what I like – not what I think others would like, or what would be generally considered a good “investment”. I like to support young, up-and-coming, local artists. Quite a few pieces in my collection have been gifts from artists that I have worked with, so my collection is extremely personal.
10and5: What is it that draws you to street art?
Elad: When I was a teenager, I discovered the work of Keith Haring. I was immediately fascinated by the concept of working in public space and I was inspired by how he would work during the day, so that passersby could see him painting, and respond to his work. Sometimes Haring even changed his work based on that public feedback.
I have always loved this idea of Street Art as a kind of performance. The process doesn’t end with the artist. The artwork continues to change over time – it gets dirty, or tagged, or painted over. It grows to have its own heartbeat. The street keeps the artwork alive.
10and5: You collect work by both international and local artists; are there major differences between local street art and international street art?
Elad: In terms of quality, no – definitely not. The standard of artwork coming out of South Africa at the moment is right there at the top. In terms of content, it obviously depends on the artist. I would say though that there is a strong sense of social consciousness that underlies many of the South African street artists’ works. There is often a feeing of energy and hope associated with change.
10and5: As the founder of Side Street Studios and the original curator of the Woodstock Industrial Centre, you’ve been deeply involved with the creative regeneration of Woodstock. What do you love about the area? Has it become what you hoped?
Elad: Initially I was drawn to Woodstock because the area’s character, and of course, its affordability. When I started working on the Woodstock Industrial Centre there were no lights, no plugs, no toilets; we had to literally beg people to be involved. From the beginning I saw the potential that the area held, but it was definitely surprising to all of us how quickly these changes have taken place.
We began a process of bringing new creative energy into Woodstock, and now, just 7 years later, it has become the unofficial “Art District” of Cape Town. The suburb has evolved and is now also attracting more corporates and agencies… the money, basically. I do sometimes miss the raw-ness that has become more “refined” in some parts recently, but this is all a part of the evolution of space. I am extremely proud of the positive things that have grown out of this journey.
10and5: What’s your vision for Side Street Studios?
Elad: With Side Street Studios I want to learn from the many art districts all over the world and curate a space that is filled with creative life and energy, while not becoming pretentious, or losing that “raw” feeling that drew me to this area in the first place. I want the space to evolve with its tenants into a rich network of artists, sharing and networking, and developing from within.
We want to keep bringing life and energy to the surroundings through creativity. The most important lesson to be learnt with these spaces is that nobody exists in isolation – we need to respect the environment that we are in. Change and growth is good, but it needs to respect what (and who) came before it. It is important to me that not only the artists in my building, but also the Woodstock locals, feel uplifted by these projects.
10and5: Which local street artists should we be paying attention to?
Elad: There are so many talented street artists all over the country at the moment. I love the work of Faith47, DALeast, and Nerd, to name just a few. Local street artists face a constant battle here – even though Cape Town is the World Design Capital for 2014, the city still has no Public Art Policy.
There has been a drop in mural painting over the last year as artists need permits, which they can only get approved via the “Safety and Security” department – who are definitely not equipped to deal with issues of this nature! In 11 months the design world will be watching Cape Town and our artists need the support of local government so that they can work in the public domain and make us all proud.
10and5: Do you have your eye on anything for your next addition?
Elad: My eyes are always open for new work. As I mentioned, I like to collect pieces form young up-and-coming artists, and the art of the people that surround me. I especially love collaborations, as they represent not only the artists, but a mysterious chemical reaction – moments in time that will never happen again.
The exhibition runs till 27 Feb, find more info here.
Photos by Shani Judes