The programme is unique in J.P. Morgan’s global network and a demonstration of its commitment in South Africa. Launch artists have advanced their careers, with several achieving international success.
The works of 11 up-and-coming South African artists have gone on exhibition in Rosebank, Johannesburg, following their participation in a unique, career-enhancing art programme established by the South African office of J.P. Morgan, the US-based global financial services company. The artists are only the second group to attend the Abadali Art Development Programme (Abadali Programme) following the inaugural programme in 2018.
Currently on show at Gallery 1 on the Keyes Art Mile in Rosebank, the works will join the first programme’s art to become part of the renowned JPMorgan Chase Art Collection founded in 1959 by David Rockefeller. Today, this has become one of the oldest and most extensive corporate art collections in the world.
According to Kevin Latter, J.P. Morgan’s Senior Country Officer for Sub-Saharan Africa, the company’s investment in the Abadali Programme stems from its core principle of supporting initiatives that have a lasting and sustainable impact on communities.
“Marginalised communities tend to be overlooked when it comes to the arts, but we have seen that they produce great talent,” he says. “The artists in the Abadali Programme have created inspirational pieces despite a lack of access to resources. We view these artists as important cultural contributors and see the programme as an investment in the future of South African art.”
The Abadali Programme, named after the term “creators” in isiXhosa and isiZulu, prioritises South African visual artists from socio-economically disadvantaged areas, encouraging the development of skills through art conception, networking, training, and mentorship. It was developed to facilitate access and resources by identifying and introducing the artists to the art market, networks and infrastructure to assist them in their careers.
J.P. Morgan acknowledges the significant role artists play in shaping the creative economy. It views artists as creators, instigators, cultural producers and future job creators. In pursuit of this goal, the Abadali Programme involved a rigorous four-month process where selected visual artists were invited to work alongside mentors to produce four bodies of work.
Artists who participated in the inaugural programme have gone on to receive numerous accolades and have exhibited internationally.
Among them, Hiten Bawa, who is from Johannesburg and is deaf, has successfully completed three international art residencies in Japan, Finland and Spain. He has had the opportunity to collaborate and exhibit in local and global group shows. “I managed to move into my own studio space, which has assisted me to take on new commissions and work with other artists,” he says.
Simon Zitha, born in rural Bushbuckridge in Mpumalanga, who sadly passed away recently, did not have the opportunity to study art. Before his death, he said that he had an extremely valuable experience with the Abadali Programme, especially as he was one of the only sculptors. “The team I worked with was very collaborative and helpful. My sculpture now enjoys pride of place having been installed at the entrance to the J.P. Morgan offices.”
The work of artist Alka Dass from Durban centres on challenges and censorship during South Africa’s Apartheid years. “The programme assisted me to develop my sense of navigating challenges,” she says. “It also gave me more freedom to experiment. The mentorship was priceless.”
“After taking part, I moved to France for a year where I participated in three different visual art residencies.”
Feedback from artists participating in the most recent edition of the programme has been equally positive. According to Mbali Tshabalala – a multidisciplinary artist, curator, and creative entrepreneur – the programme was extremely impactful, as it allowed her to learn how to sustain a studio as a professional artist.
Scott Eric Williams, who uses shoelaces to create art that contemplate intangible heritage within inner-city contexts, said, “The programme was catalytic, as it enabled a more focused intention on how artwork is produced. To engage with some of the people you have admired from a distance and for them to provide feedback on your work was an incredible opportunity.”
The artists officially graduated from the Abadali Art Programme in September last year with the exhibition in Rosebank being the first showing of the work.