Public Intimacy: Art and Other Ordinary Acts in South Africa

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The Future White Women of Azania, 2012 Performed As Part Of Performa Obscura In Collaboration With Mikhael Subotzky; Commissioned For The Exhibition Making Way, Grahamstown, South Africa; © Photo: Ruth Simboa; courtesy Athi-Patra Ruga and WHATIFTHEWORLD/GALLERY
Nomonde Mbusi, Berea, Johannesburg , 2007 Gelatin Silver Print 23 13/16 In. X 34 1/16 In. © Zanele Muholi / Courtesy the artist and Stevenson, Cape Town and Johannesburg
Public Intimacy: Art and Other Ordinary Acts in South Africa

701 Mission St.
94103 San Francisco

February 21st, 2014 - June 29th, 2014
Opening: February 21st, 2014 8:00 PM - 10:00 PM

Other (outside areas listed)
Thu-Sat: noon-8pm; Sun: noon-6pm; First Tuesdays of the month (FREE) 12-8; Summer Hours (May 28 – Aug 31) include Wed 12-6 PM
media arts, graphic design, sculpture


YBCA in collaboration with SFMOMA presents
Public Intimacy: Art and Other Ordinary Acts in South Africa

Public Intimacy focuses on the ways that artists have explored interpersonal relationships, encounters, and exchange in everyday social life in South Africa. Initially formed from a consideration of South African photography in the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art collection, the exhibition, curated by both institutions, also includes works in painting, print-making, sculpture, media arts, graphic design, plus a series of integral live art projects.

Public Intimacy focuses primarily on works that have been produced in the last five years, but also contains some historical works, including approximately 25 photographs shown in SFMOMA’s exhibition South Africa in Apartheid and After: David Goldblatt, Ernest Cole, Billy Monk (Dec 2012 - Mar 2013). Differentiating itself from the exhibitions such as South Africa in Apartheid and After and The Rise and Fall of Apartheid: Photography and the Bureaucracy of Everyday Life (International Center of Photography, New York, Sep 2012 - Jan 2013), which exposed how apartheid prohibitions such as the Group Areas Act controlling inter-social movement, and the Immorality Act controlling interpersonal association governed the conditions for public intimacy in the past, Public Intimacy explores how those conditions are and have been changing.

This exhibition aims to identify new directions in recent South African art practice; many artists making work in the past five years are interpreting social and political conditions in more personal, muted or indirect ways than was often the case during the period of great national optimism that immediately followed the ending of apartheid. Many of them are younger artists who have grown up only under the current conditions. Yet this contemporary tendency is prefigured in the work of an older generation of photographers, such as David Goldblatt and Santu Mofokeng, who approached issues of interpersonal relationships with a similarly discreet, often poetic, sensibility.

The exhibition includes works by artists in SFMOMA’s permanent collection such as David Goldblatt, Pieter Hugo, i-jusi (Garth Walker), William Kentridge, Sabelo Mlangeni, Santu Mofokeng, Billy Monk, Zanele Muholi, Lindeka Qampi and Jo Ractliffe. Also included are works by Ernest Cole, Nicholas Hlobo, Sello Pesa and Vaughn Sadie, Athi-Patra Ruga, Mikhael Subotzky (with Patrick Waterhouse), and Kemang Wa Lehulere, among others.

Public Intimacy also includes a publication and a symposium on “visual activism” affiliated with the third biennial conference of the International Association for Visual Culture.

Public Intimacy is co-curated by Betti-Sue Hertz, Director of Visual Arts at YBCA; Dominic Willsdon, Leanne and George Roberts Curator of Education and Public Programs at SFMOMA; and Frank Smigiel, Associate Curator of Public Programs at SFMOMA.

Opening Night Party
Feb 21, 2014 8:00pm – 10:00pm
Downstairs Galleries
$12 in Advance / $15 at the Door / FREE for YBCA and SFMOMA Members and YBCA:You

Celebrate the opening of Public Intimacy with a night of music and performance from an array of artists, libations from YBCA mixologists, and an exclusive first look at this stirring exhibition.

Optional: include an RSVP for free admission to Athi-Patra Ruga's performance The Elder of Azania at 10 PM.

All Members must RSVP to