By Carol Brown
TENX10 features artworks by 100 women and gender diverse artists, and marks Wits University’s centenary and Wits Art Museum’s tenth birthday. In programming exhibitions, curators, including in this museum, has often neglected the extensive artistic contribution made by women and gender diverse artists to South African art. WAM therefore decided to focus primarily on these artists for the 2022 programming. TENX10 is the launch of that year-long focus.
The artworks on exhibition span 100 years with the earliest from around 1920 and the most recent from 2020, a century later. All are drawn from the sub-collections comprising WAM’s holdings. Many techniques and materials are included, from painting to photography, beads to bronze. Well-known artists and artists whose names we do not know are included, along with artworks by individual artists and those by artists’ collectives.
Multiples of ten also form the exhibition’s organising principle of using themes to highlight the diversity of the artworks. Themes are one way to make meaning of the artworks and offer ideas of ways to engage with them. Each artwork can suggest many themes and everyone viewing the exhibition has experiences and associations that influence the ways they understand artworks. The ten themes WAM curators have selected are: Relationships, History, Identity, Place, memory, Travel, Transition, Textual; Home and Found objects. The themes are communicated through different coloured shapes on the labels next to the works. The key to the colours is also provided on laminated sheets throughout the exhibition and in the Education Resource.
Considering themes is one way to make meaning of artworks. Everyone viewing the exhibition has experiences and associations that influence the ways they understand artworks, so many other themes can also be considered. Visitors are invited to share their interpretations with WAM and each other, and contribute to the response wall.