Tribute to Linda Givon, the matriarch of art dealing in South Africa

By Edward Tsumele

As far as Linda Givon who passed on, on October 5, 2020, at the age of 84, is concerned, it would not be an exaggeration If one suggest that she was more than an art dealer and gallerist, but an art institution herself.

Sometimes it is even hard to say whether the institution she created, the Goodman Gallery was bigger than her, or in fact she was bigger than her creation. Givon, born in 1936 in Johannesburg, and who ran the Goodman Gallery, first for 30 years in its original Hyde Park base, before moving it to its current premises in Parkwood in 1997, was the quintessential art dealer and gallerist ,a matriarch  of the contemporary fine  art world in South Africa.

In fact many young gallerists and art dealers that are now populating the space, would not find it difficult to admit that the Goodman Gallery became, over the years, the benchmark against which they measured their own standards of service and excellence. The Goodman Gallery to a large extent, remained the traditional style gallery, complete with an air of intimidation especially to young collectors not used to collecting art in an environment that shouted that you do not belong here, or that check your pocket.

Even when many contemporary art galleries shifted their attitudes of how they curate  and exhibit their art works, the Goodman Gallery continued to follow the traditional way of a typical South African art gallery, and I suspect that its clients preferred it that way, instead of making the openings of exhibitions less formal and more informal, like many South African galleries are fond of doing increasingly over the years. They do this to attract the new moneyed who may not necessarily have both the visual literacy and the patience of formality often practiced by traditional art gallery spaces

Her role in not only mentoring many an artist in the country, but   also helping to grow the appetite for collecting art among the wealthy classes cannot be ignored over the years.

Givon opened many doors for several South African artists, including artists of colour, such as Sam Nhlengethwa, Ezrom Legae, the late Dumile Feni and the late David Koloane, among others, exhibiting their work in her gallery, even during the politically turbulent apartheid years. Givon, then Linda Goodman, founded the Goodman Gallery in 1966, and the institution is still standing tall, under Liza  Essers, new blood in art dealing and in managing a gallery.

Although Givon sold her gallery to the younger and more energetic Esssers in 2008, she very much remained an active part of the arts community, even at her late age.

Those who attended the late Koloane’s funeral must have been impressed not only by the stories she told of her late friend and artist Koloane, but also her level of loyalty to those that she worked with, as she attended the funeral in her wheel chair to just make sure that her departed friend gets a befitting send off at a place that she founded, the Goodman Gallery on Jan Smuts Avenue in Parkwood where the memorial service took place in 2018.

An emotional Givon told of how Koloane could take her to places that many a suburban person like her could not even imagine themselves there in the first place. It was clear that their relationship was more than that of a gallerist and an artist she represented. They were more like a brother and a sister, something that tends to elude many in a race defined society like South Africa.

CITYLIFE/ARTs would like to pay condolences to Givon’s family and her close friends. Hamba Kahle Linda.

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