Navigating the art field

By Boitumelo Mazibuko

This year has pushed me to both new heights and low points in my personal and professional life. I got the opportunity to curate a solo exhibition as part of The Coloured Cube and work as a freelance curator for two exhibitions. Both experiences have enhanced my skill level on various roles that I have to take on. I’ve also understood a lot of what and why I’m doing as a curator, project manager and artist.

It’s never easy for most postgraduates who enter the professional world after four or five years of being cushioned against the ‘scary’ world. The Visual Arts is one of the hardest professional fields you can find yourself in, unless you’re one of the few with ‘beginner’s luck’. So often, visual artists find themselves having to add another skill to their qualification in order to have a solid job. I found myself in the same dilemma. However, I’ve received two equally but different beautiful opportunities in my life and now and then they collide in my career journey.

I completed my Advertising Certificate at Umuzi Academy, which gave me valuable technical skills in videography and photography; it also enhanced the skills that I had already possessed from my Arts degree. Afterwards, I became part of The Coloured Cube team; a company that uses the arts and multidisciplinary projects to create solutions for corporate companies. These two experiences have become the two sides of the coin of my career. They have collided as I have curated and project managed Dr Samia’s Discreet Violence exhibition as part of GSA’s lecture series and recently two of Umuzi’s First Thursday’s exhibitions.

As much as these were just exhibitions, they taught me a lot about what I need to know when becoming a professional. Each exhibition was different from the next but behind the scenes there is growth and discovery of self.

An|Other Exhibtion by Kgomotso Neto. 5 April 2018. Umuzi First Thursdays Exhibition.

Discreet Violence by Dr Samia Henni. 19 April 2018. Sponsored by Graduate School of Architecture.

Rise by Kgodisho Zito Mowa. 07 June 2018. Umuzi First Thursday Exhibition.

From these exhibitions, I’ve learned a few valuable lessons:
1. You learn to take full accountability for what you’re responsible for. You need to own every detail and component of the exhibition as if it were your own exhibition

2. You have to capture and represent the artist’s persona in the way you curate their works for all the public to see. You need to understand your artist/client and put yourself in his/her shoes when representing them

3. You are essentially building someone’s career. This is a time to understand why you’re curating an artist’s work. You take on a behind-the-scenes role and this is a key role that many do not like but it is a very valuable skill to learn and to understand when curating.

4. It pushes you to be a better person and artist. Curating can spark inspiration to create your personal and also help you manage people and yourself.

5. You become acquainted with people and network for future exhibitions.

With every path that you take it all works together to bring you closer to the career that you want or it even stirs you to where you were actually meant to be. The key to navigating the art world is to always have a hunger to learn and an open mind, also an understanding that it is not a linear journey but one with detours and sometimes ‘dead-ends’ that force you to self – reflect on your destiny. Take every opportunity as a chance to grow and find another piece to your puzzle, which will build up to the image you want in your life.

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