Salon91, named after it’s location at 91 Kloof Street in Cape Town and the Paris Salon – the first official art exhibition of the Academie des Beaux-Arts in Paris in 1725, is a contemporary art gallery with a special focus on exhibiting emerging artists and showcasing the work of young designers and illustrators. While you’ll also find the work of established contemporary artists on the walls, the gallery’s founder, Monique du Preez is passionate about developing brand new talent.
For our Creative Women series this Women’s Month we asked Monique about her space, up and coming female artists and to share some of her favourite pieces from previous Salon91 exhibitions.
Between 10and5: What were you doing before Salon91?
Monique du Preez: After completing my BAFA at Michaelis (UCT Fine Art Department), I enrolled in a short Accounting course at the University of Cape Town, a Beginners French course at the Alliance Fraincaise & an Entrepreneurship course at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology. Once I had completed these studies I began to source artworks for corporate and private clients on a very informal basis. At this time I was also very much involved with renovations at the gallery and meeting with emerging artists. Salon91 opened during October 2008.
10and5: What made you want to open your own gallery and what was the vision for it at the beginning?
Monique: During the four years I spent studying at Michaelis I became increasingly interested in art theory and discourse, as well as in the practice of curatorship, and the setting up of exhibitions. On the last day of lectures in 4th year the school arranged for a prominent Cape Town gallery owner to come and talk to us about the gallery system and what we could expect. We were told that only one new artist gets accepted to his gallery per annum and that portfolios were only accepted upon request.
We were told to prepare to be broke struggling young artists for at least the next 10 years of our lives. This news left us feeling incredibly despondent and was the reason a number of my talented classmates gave up the dream of being an artist. I decided then that I wanted to open a gallery aimed at emerging artists – inclusive, accessible and affordable.
I have always believed that art should not only exist or be created for an elitist minority. Another crucial part of the vision for the gallery was to bridge the divide between various creative disciplines and practices – our program therefore includes & fuses elements of design, illustration and fine art.
10and5: What do you love about contemporary art?
Monique: It’s incredibly exciting, it’s intellectual, it’s attractive, it’s relevant to my generation, it’s global, it holds the potential to be inclusive, accessible & cross disciplinary, and there are no finite rules.
10and5: What has been your favourite exhibition to curate?
Monique: Each exhibition comes with its own curatorial challenges, particularly in our space as it is located in an old building, with a history and certain limitations. One of the most exciting and challenging shows to curate was “If you let yourself love a wild thing” (December 2011).
My assistant curator and I were faced with the task of cohesively incorporating the works of 50 emerging and established artists into a space that is essentially 50 square metres for a show, which was to be held in association with a local organization called Greenpop.
Some things that made it really interesting include the living vertical garden display which graced our shopfront & the neat concept of “pre-curating”, which basically involves mapping up and dividing the space into workable sections before any works have even been created.
10and5: What are the biggest challenges that come with running a gallery?
Monique: Dealing with the public. For every awesome artist and client you deal with there is at least one challenging/disrespectful/difficult one. Admin. There is a lot to deal with and process in a relatively short amount of time.
10and5: What are your thoughts on the young South African art/design scene?
Monique: I feel very inspired and privileged to be a part of the culture of South African art and design at this moment in time. From the gallery floor we can report that we are seeing some amazing works by emerging creatives, and receive incredibly encouraging feedback from tourists, locals and ex-South Africans alike, so our thoughts & reflections on the subject are very positive indeed. There definitely seems to be a new brand of local talent that is emerging and developing. Cape Town being named World Design Capital 2014 is also a great sign for creatives within our country.
10and5: Who would you consider to be the most promising emerging female South African artist?
Monique: I definitely can’t single out any one particular emerging female artist, so instead I will mention a few. Relatively fresh on the gallery scene & exceptionally talented would be fine young painters Grace Cross, Mia Chaplin & Alexa Karakashian. More seasoned female artists but technically still stars on the rise would include Gabby Raaff, Marlise Keith, & Elsabé Milandri. I am expecting to see great things from all these ladies and their promising careers in years to come.
10and5: Who is the creative woman most inspiring to you?
Monique: Riva Cohen of Atlantic Gallery and Linda Givon of Goodman gallery, both for providing a platform for artistic expression, and for their vision and staying power in a tough industry.