Art against Apartheid Collection
‘Art against Apartheid’ was an exhibition assembled by the Association of Artists of the World against Apartheid, headed by Ernest Pignon-Ernest and Antonio Suara, in co-operation with the United Nations Special Committee against Apartheid. Comprising 85 works, the exhibition opened in Paris in 1983, after which it travelled to various parts of the world, including Spain, the Netherlands, Greece, the USA, Korea, Canada, the Caribbean and Japan. The show featured work by celebrated international artists of the 1970s and ‘80s, including Pignon-Ernest, Joe Tilson, Roy Lichtenstein, Sol LeWitt, Christian Boltanski, Donald Judd, Robert Motherwell, Claes Oldenberg, Tom Phillips, Larry Rivers, James Rosenquist, Pierre Soulages, Robert Rauschenberg, Valente Ngwenya Malangatana and Gavin Jantjes.
In the preface to the exhibition catalogue, which includes a famous essay by Jacques Derrida, ‘Racism’s Last Word’, Ernest Pignon-Ernest and Antonio Suara write:
The collection offered here will form the basis of a future museum against apartheid. But first, these works will be presented in a travelling exhibition to be received by museums and other cultural facilities throughout the world. The day will come – and our efforts are joined to those of the international community aiming to hasten that day’s arrival – when the museum thus constituted will be presented as a gift to the first free and democratic government of South Africa to be elected by universal suffrage. Until then, the Association of Artists of the World against Apartheid will assume, through the appropriate legal, institutional and financial structures, the trusteeship of the works.
Although the proposed future museum against apartheid never became a reality, the collection was donated to the South African government in 1995. After being shown in Parliament, President Mandela recommended that the collection be housed at the UWC-RIM Mayibuye Archives, based at UWC.
The Art against Apartheid Collection ranks as the most prestigious of all art collections at UWC. In 2010 a selection of 29 works from the collection was shown in Johannesburg (Constitutional Hill), Durban (Durban Art Gallery) and Cape Town (Iziko Michaelis Collection) on the ‘Home and Away’ exhibition, curated by Carol Brown. In the catalogue to ‘Home and Away’, Premesh Lalu writes:
In the Art against Apartheid Collection, we at UWC have discovered a multiplicity of forms through which to revisit the critique of apartheid so as to make sense both of its authoritarian legacies and the potential for setting to work on building a post-apartheid society. To that end, [the Collection] has continued to spur debates at UWC, both regarding the need to expand what can be said about the history of liberation struggles, as well as about how to renew the study of the humanities in Africa through the work of art.