Iziko Museums of South Africa has announced ‘Then I Knew I Was Good at Painting’: Esther Mahlangu, A Retrospective, will be opening on February 17, 2024.
Curated by Nontobeko Ntombela, the exhibition highlights Dr Esther Mahlangu’s over 50-year long career and her meteoric rise as a contemporary artist, earning her global acclaim.
The monumental retrospective will be open to the public at the Iziko South African National Gallery from February 18 until August 11, 2024.
From there it will then begin its global tour, stopping first at Wits Art Museum in Johannesburg, South Africa, before moving to the United States in early 2026.
The Melrose Gallery, Esther Mahlangu’s global representative, was tasked with implementation of the Retrospective Exhibition.
Through the language of colour and form, the exhibition charts Mahlangu’s contribution to contemporary art close to seven decades.
More than 100 artworks have been loaned from international collections, carefully curated alongside historic photographs and a short film.
Also included in the exhibition is Mahlangu’s BMW 525i Art Car which makes its historic return to South Africa for the first time in more than 30 years.
Mahlangu became the first woman and first African to be invited to participate in the prestigious BMW Art Car Collection in 1991.
This diverse collection from Mahlangu’s expansive oeuvre which features in ‘Then I Knew I Was Good at Painting’: Esther Mahlangu, A Retrospective, will offer a comprehensive yet intimate insight into her vast and vibrant career.
“Mahlangu’s journey is a testament to passion, innovation, and resilience,” Curator Nontobeko Ntombela remarked.
Continuing, “The retrospective pays homage to Esther Mahlangu's unique approach to art, which intersects African cultures with modernity and the contemporary. The exhibition celebrates Mahlangu’s voice, agency, and pioneering spirit, symbolizing her self-enunciation, self-determination and creativity.”
Recounting how her artistic journey began, Mahlangu often tells the story of being trained by her grandmother and mother in the early 1940s, saying: "I would continue to paint on the house when they left for a break.
“When they came back, they would say: ‘What have you done, child? Never do that again!’ After that, I started drawing on the back of the house, and slowly my drawings got better and better until they finally asked me to come back to the front of the house. Then I knew I was good at painting.
The celebration of the life and art of Dr Esther Mahlangu will be open to the general public from February 18 – August 11, 2024.