South African Pavilion

For 2017, Performa is delighted to announce our Pavilion Without Walls series for the countries of Estonia and South Africa.  Launched in 2013, the Performa Pavilion Without Walls showcases the most vibrant and significant art from a particular country or region, fostering cultural exchange and connecting international artists with global audiences and the New York City cultural landscape. Since 2013 Performa has presented the Pavilion Without Walls for the countries of Norway, Poland, and Australia.


South Africa has long been an area of deep fascination for Performa. Since the first Biennial in 2005, the organization has brought artists and groups such as Bernie Searle, Candice Breitz, Athi-Patra Ruga, Robin Rhode, William Kentridge, and Chimurenga to share their distinct visions with New York audiences. The South African Pavilion Without Walls at Performa 17 takes a deeper look at the country in order to conduct an in-depth investigation into the artistic practices developing in the post-apartheid era, which represents one of the most dynamic and vigorous spaces of artistic practice on the African continent in a state of constant invention. During the eighties and nineties, artists from different generations simultaneously shifted away from and expanded modes of production that were informed by resistance culture and modern and contemporary western art as they adapted to emerging global changes.

For South African artists, art and politics are not separate spheres of practice but complex systems in which they play important cultural and intellectual roles. Performance, in particular, has emerged as a flexible vehicle for these artists living under politically repressed regimes because it is able to speak across the multitude of cultures, languages, tribes, identities, songs and landscapes of South Africa and beyond. Bringing together artists who have developed deeply personal and individual vocabularies in the post-apartheid culture, Performa 17 aims to elucidate the complex strategies and conceptual frameworks defined by the contradiction, disparity, and skepticism generated in the midst and wake of dramatic political shifts, and to reveal their relevance to the global conversation.

Commissions and projects in the South African Pavilion Without Walls includes:

  • Kendell Geers
  • Nicholas Hlobo
  • William Kentridge
  • Mohau Modisakeng
  • Zanele Muholi
  • Tracey Rose
  • Kemang Wa Lehulere

Curated by RoseLee Goldberg. Supported by the Ford Foundation and the South African Pavilion Committee: Wendy Fisher, Fundação Sindika Dokolo, Liza Essers - Goodman Gallery, Patrick Gaspard, Emile Stipp, Tracey and Phillip Riese, Robben Stichting, Stephen Friedman Gallery, Jonathan Jawno, SAFFCA - Southern African Foundation For Contemporary Art, and Pulane Kingston.