The unique, contemporary design pieces being produced on the Southern Guild gallery platform have been making a surprising impact in galleries and art fairs abroad, and now all eyes are on the debut showing at New York’s Collective.1 design fair being held this week until Saturday.
The work to be shown is by some of the most recognised names in the country, including Brett Murray, Conrad Botha and Paco Pakdoust, Dokter & Misses, Gregor Jenkin, Porky Hefer, Michaella Janse van Vuuren and Andile Dyalvane.
They will be exhibiting next to about 25 globally recognised designers, and potential buyers at Collective.1 are among the most sophisticated and art-educated folk anywhere.
But if Southern Guild exhibitions at international fairs over the past year are anything to go by, the work will not only stand its ground, but sell as well.
“At Design Days in Dubai in March, the second year we’ve attended, we sold three quarters of the work we took, whereas other galleries didn’t achieve what they expected,” says Trevyn McGowan, co-founder of Southern Guild with her husband, Julian.
With some nervousness, the gallery anticipates similar success in New York.
“The design market is established in Europe and the US, with such a vast resource of work to pull on, so the strength of South African design lies in what makes us different,” says McGowan.
“It’s our unique and authentic background story, including the materials being used, that we need to stay true to. That is what sets these design pieces apart, and we’ve learnt that this is what art lovers and serious collectors at these exhibitions appreciate.”
Southern Guild, founded in 2011 and based in Wilderness in the Western Cape, was the first African gallery to present at Design Miami, and will go again to this fair, being held in Basel, Switzerland, next month. In April, Southern Guild collaborated with the Friedman Benda gallery in New York in exhibiting collector items sourced in southern Africa.
“We’ve gone from exhibiting once a year to once a month,” says McGowan.
“Along the way we are learning a lot from other galleries. It’s essential for the local design industry to explore and propel its vision and identity on international platforms, in order to grow and thrive.”
One of the works sure to draw attention at Collective.1 is Skull Candy, by Bronze Age Studio, an art foundry in Woodstock, Cape Town, owned by sculptor Otto du Plessis who partners with industrial designer Charles Haupt. It features a bronze skull with a lid you can lift (with “candy” or sweets inside), resting on top of a round table with a stand also cast in bronze.
“The work started with traditional bronze pot plant holders,” says Du Plessis. “I wanted to take the concept further, and this is what we created. It’s supposed to be viewed with a bit of humour.”
Another arresting piece will be their Welcome to my World piece, a life-size gorilla with a little one inside its chest. “It was originally designed as a liquor cabinet,” laughs Du Plessis.
Renowned ceramicist Andile Dyalvane will hopefully inspire just as much curiosity with his work, Docks Table, made from colourful ceramic blocks. “The work is inspired by the container yard in Cape Town Harbour, which my studio overlooks,” he says.
In keeping with his attempts to expose humorously the greed and paucity of morals in the ruling elite, the controversial Brett Murray, who produced The Spear painting, is exhibiting knuckledusters inscribed with the words “thug” and “life”.
The beautifully detailed work by 3D printing designer Michaella Janse van Vuuren will also surely be a winner. Her primary tools are digital design and manufacturing technology. “By means of 3D printing I have been able to give substance to my imagination, with no limit to realising even the most elaborate image,” she says.
McGowan predicts that Gregor Jenkin’s table, a monolithic, hand-welded steel-planked table, will be another definite hit with New York’s art society.
Porky Hefer, meanwhile, is known to have charmed many a tree with his own version of the weaver’s nest, one of which – called Black Hole – has travelled to New York for inspection.
Other designers on show will be Dylan Lewis, Friday Jibu, Guy du Toit, Kyle Morland, Pieter Henning, Remed and Hylton Nel and Vogel + Plunkett, with their Lovemelovemenot table.