Covid claims life of its first high profile artist Antoinette Murdock

By Edward Tsumele

Tribute to continue flood social media platforms for curator and artist Antoinette Murdock  who passed on on Friday night due to Covid-19 related complications. The curator and art specialist died at Milpark Hospital where she was admitted after contracting the coronavirus.

She is the first high profile person in the arts to have succumbed to the disease currently causing panic and fear in communities where it is spreading at a fast rate, particularly in Gauteng, which has since surpassed the Western Cape as the new epicenter of the virus.

Murdock is the former director and chief curator of the Johannesburg Art Gallery in Johannesburg situated at Joubert Park, inner city Johannesburg. She however had let the institution a few years ago to work as an art specialist, consulting for auction houses that focus on selling contemporary art.

Several artists who went on social media to express their condolences over the weekend were clearly in shock to learn about Murdock’s death as she was not reported ill in the first place.

“I knew Antoinette from when she started her career as a curator at the Civic Theatre Gallery. She did a brilliant job with Vishnu Sing in setting up the Art Bank for the City of Joburg. When the City began to undermine this very successful project she moved into the position of Head of JAG.(Johannesburg Art Gallery).
Clive Kelner who predated her, had begun to experience the terrible frustration with the sick old JAG building and its environment of rapid urban decay . He left and Antoinette took over. Eventually the challenges became overwhelming. She had to endure an entirely unhelpful management from the head office, that made it impossible for her to deal with a delinquent staff member and a leaky building. She suffered extreme stress. Despite this she undertook exhibitions, acquisitions and publications during her tenure. My sincerest thoughts are with her and her young daughters,” says artist and arts administration veteran Steven Sack.

“Sad to hear that Antoinette Murdock, former head of Johannesburg Art Gallery passed away from Covid-19 last night at Milpark Hospital. I hope she finds peace at last. Condolences to her family and friends,”,said well known artist and University of Johannesburg senior art lecturer .Gordon Froud.

“I was so sad to receive the horrible news this morning that Antoinette Murdoch had died of complications resulting from COVID-19.  Antoinette, who was born in 1972, was a graduate of one of the legacy institutions of the University of Johannesburg, the Technikon Witwatersrand, completing a National Diploma between 1992 and 1994,

She produced some amazing art, interrogating social expectations of women and how women in turn police themselves. I included her work in my Through the Looking Glass exhibition and accompanying book (2004) which focused on self-representations by South African women artists, The work I showed was her Eksie-Perfeksie (“Just Perfect”) from 2002, in which she represented herself as a paper doll with accompanying outfits based on her own. Originally included on the cardboard cover of a catalogue and with a paper version of its accompanying clothing, the doll and its clothing could actually be cut out and used as a toy. RIP,’ said Brenda Schmahmann a professor of visual art at the University of Johannesburg who worked with Murdock, especially at the beginning of her career.

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