Speechless Comic Book Market & Colloquium and the Big Debate

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Cropped photographs of the Speechless colloquium with Zapiro, Andy Mason, Stacey Stent and Sean Christie.

The month of May witnessed the successful opening of SPEECHLESS, South African Comic Artists on the State of the Nation, currently on show at Erdmann Contemporary at 84 Kloof Street in Cape Town until 11 July. The Erdmann Contemporary gallery, the CCIBA and AMAK also hosted a comic book market and colloquium on Saturday 20 June where passers-by had the opportunity to buy local South African comics and rare comic book publications from all over the world. The colloquium was a hit with a lively discussion around cartooning and comics in the fine art space and the current state of newspaper cartooning thanks to generous comments from Zapiro, Stacey Stent, other panelists and colloquium attendee Chip Snaddon. 

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Photograph courtesy of Erdmann Contemporary.

The conversation started off with the intention of showcasing cartoons in a gallery environment. Panelists raised the question of whether or not comic art is or can indeed be art and if the comic art medium was financially viable, especially in a gallery space. According to Erdmann Contemporary's Twitter feed, Zapiro explained how sales of his work including prints and originals are not limited to exhibition in galleries, the artist producing an edition of prints for most of the cartoons he illustrates and making them available on his website and through his formiddable network. Zapiro fondly reminded the audience how William Kentridge made satirical cartoons for a newspaper for a short period of time.

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Photograph courtesy of Erdmann Contemporary.

Sean Christie went on to explain the transition from cartoons for newspaper to cartoons for the gallery wall and articulated some of the 'hang-ups" involved. Christie also mentioned the shift from original to digital works and how collectors prefer to buy original pieces, namely those created using non-digital media. Panelists went on to discuss Brett Murray's Spear and how the attention surrounding the work affected the manner in which South Africans view caricature cartooning and the way in which we galleries price these sort of works. The exhibition contains a significant amount of President Zuma imagery, Sean Christie going so far as to say that some of the works were overly literal. Zapiro started the gender in cartooning debate and asked why it is the case that Stacey Stent is one of South Africa's only published female political cartoonists and one of very few women in industry locally.

Erdmann Contemporary recently released a statement on their Facebook group regarding the Speechless colloquium and comic book market:

The comic book market was a huge success & will become a monthly event! Thank you to Andy Mason & Rafael Powell for organising and Blah Blah Bar for hosting. Andy Mason, Blank Books and Bibliophilia put on a fantastic display of the best comic books I have ever seen in one room. The Colloquium with Zapiro, Stacey Stent, Sean Christie and chaired by Andy Mason was equally successful and continued long after the initial two hour discussion. Thank you to the panelists and Andy for a good debate on a touchy subject. Both these events were centered around our current exhibition, SPEECHLESS which remains on view until 11 July. Images of work by participating cartoonists Alastair Findlay, Zapiro, Chip Snaddon, Stacey Stent & Brandon Reynolds.

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