Salah M. Hassan curates Gavin Jantjes: To Be Free! A Retrospective 1970–2023 at the Sharjah Art Foundation

Salah M. Hassan curates Gavin Jantjes: To Be Free! A Retrospective 1970–2023 at the Sharjah Art Foundation

The exhibition opened at the Sharjah Art Foundation 18 Nov 2023–10 Mar 2024, and will travel to the Whitechapel Gallery, London, 12 Jun – 1 Sep 2024.

Organized by Whitechapel Gallery and Sharjah Art Foundation, in collaboration with The Africa Institute, Sharjah.

To Be Free! traces Gavin Jantjes's journey as a creative agent of change, celebrating his multifaceted roles as painter, printmaker, writer, curator, and activist. Driven by his formative years in Cape Town, which coincided with the early years of South African apartheid (1948–1994), Jantjes's journey embodies a quest for artistic emancipation, with a freedom not bound by the Eurocentric gaze or expectations of Black creativity. For Jantjes, this quest has meant a life of itinerant exile manifesting in multiple careers.

Structured into chapters spanning 1970 to the present, To Be Free! underscores pivotal phases in Jantjes's life. It explores his engagement with anti-apartheid activism from the 1970s to the mid-1980s, his transformative role at art institutions in the UK, Germany, and Norway, his compelling figurative portrayals of the global Black struggle for freedom, and his recent transition to non-figurative painting.

This comprehensive retrospective also provides insights into Jantjes’ curatorial initiatives, written contributions, and wider advocacy, demonstrating his significant impact on both African and African diaspora art and the global contemporary art scene. Through the various threads of his career over the last 50 years, his work has transcended temporal and geographical confines and asserted the relevance of African art in global cultural dialogues.

Salah Hassan is Distinguished Professor in History of Art, Africana Studies, and Director of the Institute for Comparative Modernities at Cornell. He is Director of the Africa Institute, Sharjah, UAE.

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Hassan Exhibit Photo