Chatting to Kim Kandan guest curator of Strauss &Co.’s online only March 2021 fine art auction

By Edward Tsumele                                        

Leading modern and contemporary art auction house Strauss  &Co. is currently hosting its  online only March 2021 auction, running until March 29, having commenced on March 22. The curator for this auction is guest curator Kim Kandan, KZNSA gallery director . In this interview with CITYLIFE/ARTs Editor Edward Tsumele, Kandan talks about the process that went into curating  this  impressive body of work.  

Kandan is the second guest curator in an on-going series of collaborations between Strauss & Co and key role-players in the South African art industry, an engagement that gives a broader perspective on South African contemporary and modern art that is offered for auction.

  1. Congratulations for having been appointed to curate the Strauss &Co. March Online Auction. Can you tell us how this opportunity came about and what your immediate reaction was, given the fact that Strauss&Co. is a leader when it comes to fine art auction with a solid track record when it comes to the quality of work it handles at its auctions?

Thank you. We were in conversation with Susie Goodman at Strauss about funding options for the KZNSA; we are an NPO gallery that has been drastically affected not only by lockdown but the general lack of funding for the arts, and she mentioned the opportunity. Having worked with Strauss and knowing the quality of the works that it handles I was quite excited to see what they would have on offer and to curate from that list a provoking and critical collection of contemporary works.

  • Can you tell us your experience in curating this particular auction, your challenges you faced and your impression of the work you encountered  in the process

Going through the vast list of works consigned for this auction was interesting, a lot of the works coming from Cape Town were not yet photographed which made selection tricky, but there seemed be only a handful of contemporary works coming in from that locale anyway which was interesting – on being asked to curate for this auction I immediately knew I wanted a selection of mainly contemporary work and there were many excellent examples to use. There were great examples of photography, works that were critical and interrogated the private/public divide, social issues that remain relevant and works that did these things in an irreverent quirky manner while being pleasing to live with in terms of colour and style.

 Bambo Sibiya | Omama | R 40 000 – 60 000
  • Curating an auction during the uncertain times of Covid-19 comes with its own challenges. Can you therefore share what those challenges were in this case with regards to the constraints placed on the way of curators by the current situation of this global pandemic?

The point of exhibiting is for an audience to view, gallery openings have been up till recently quite hampered in achieving this and even still some may be cautious in attending an exhibition opening.

Online platforms are unhampered by any issues caused by Covid, and work can still be shown, the experience is nowhere near the same as attending an opening and viewing work in person, or the feel created by an exhibition curated with an indepth curatorial vision, but work can still be shown and appreciated.

  • What were the major considerations with regards to the aesthetics of curating this auction?

I approached the selection of work from the position of a young collector building a contemporary collection and making a ‘wishlist’ of works  to add to that collection.

The selection moves between photography, traditional mediums like painting and prints to fibre work. Iv included works that would fit well into the conversations under current contemplation socially, in curation and even current aesthetics, there is also a very definite colour theme running though the selections; bold, saturated blocks contrasting colour creating flat backgrounds. Figure, form and line work pull the subject matter of the works together.

  • I would imagine in curating this particular auction there were consultations that had to happen to make sure that all parts of this auction are where they are supposed to be in order to give the viewers, collectors a seamless experience and an enjoyable journey through this body of work. Did you do some consultations with other experts or mentors in this regard?

Not really. Strauss provided images of the works with their details; a lot if the artists are familiar in the industry so I knew what their bodies of work were about generally, however curating online has its limits; Strauss offered the option of creating an order for the works that fits in with the selection.

  • What kind of support did you get from the Strauss &Co. team  in order to make your responsibilities  much easy?

All info about the works were provided or easily accessible and their team of specialists were always available.

  • What sort of lessons are you taking with from curating this auction?

Buy art, add to your collection, be part of the creative economy.

  • Seeing that you are young, but you are already making a mark on the fine art scene as a gallery director and now curating an auction by a leading fine art auction house, what advise would you like to give to young people who perhaps after reading this would like to follow your path in fine art curating?

Work hard, watch, read and learn. Don’t be bullied and make sure you get what you want.

  • Involvement in art is as much a passion as it is a career?  Tell us a bit more about your situation with regards to the above?

Very true for art in all its forms, visual, performance and I’m sure music. I have a background in performance, which fueled my interest in artistic movements in performance and then lead me to look further into movements in visual art – because they are quite connected.

I started out as a gallery assistant and now have a small collection of my own.

  1. I see that in your academic pursuit you have politics, law and arts as combinations. To some it would look like strange combinations. How you agree?

I think to people in both art and law the connection is latent; law in a broad way is influenced by community moral, is political, exercises its influence on the private and public.

Art is necessarily political, critical of public issues and critical of private issues, its commonly viewed as a reflection of society and so these two practices are easily relatable.

.Join Strauss & Co senior art specialist Dr Alastair Meredith in conversation with KZNSA gallery director Kim Kandan as they discuss his selection of artworks from the March Online-Only Auction n March 25 at straussandco

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