The painting, Madonna con bambino benedicente (1629) by Italian Baroque painter Guercino (1951 – 1666) is shown in dialogue with works by Zimbabwean contemporary artist Kudzanai Chiurai (b.1981) in an exhibition entitled Now & Then: Guercino & Kudzanai Chiurai, organised by Gcotyelwa Mashiqa and Julia Kabat at Zeitz MOCAA.
On Tuesday 3 July 2018, Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (Zeitz MOCAA), in partnership with the Consulate of Italy in Cape Town, unveiled the work by Baroque painter Guercino (1951 – 1666) to an audience that included Western Cape Premier Helen Zille.
Now & Then – a multiplicity of viewpoints
The ongoing Now & Then exhibition series at Zeitz MOCAA examines the potential for a multiplicity of viewpoints and exchanges by presenting the works of artists of different time periods to explore how the past resonates with the present through contrasting mediums, forms and processes.
Madonna con bambino benedicente depicts a benediction of the Madonna and child, and its religious iconography is one that was prevalent during the 18th century. Similarly, one of Chiurai’s works selected for the show depicts a maternal figure nursing a wounded woman and references Michaelangelo’s sculpture Pietá (1499), which portrays Christ’s lifeless body lying across the knees of the Virgin Mary after the crucifixion.
“It has been an interesting process to conceptualise the juxtaposition of an almost 400-year-old painting with a contemporary African artwork,” says Kabat. “To reconsider the significance of Guercino’s Baroque painting in a contemporary setting suggests the refusal of dominant histories in favour of a multitude of perspectives in which a story has many sides and many potential meanings.”
Mashiqa adds: “Working on this exhibition has made me consider how the narrative of history is not fixed, is more complex than we are taught and has gaps. The conversation between Guercino and Chiurai is an attempt to fill in the gaps and relook at the dominant nature of this narrative.”
The themes of maternity, sacrifice, public violence and loss of life depicted in these works become points of reflection and urge viewers to consider the unseen, overlooked and silenced histories that shadow each of the works’ respective contexts.
Alfonso Tagliaferri, Consul of Italy in Cape Town, says: “We are proud to showcase a masterpiece of Italian cultural heritage in what is possibly the most important museum space on the African continent. I believe that this exhibition will create new stimulating bridges between our cultures. At the same time, I hope it will entice South Africans to travel to Italy and experience how every corner of it can hold something unique, like this beautiful Madonna that is kept in a church in the medieval town of Cento, in the Emilia-Romagna Region.”
The presentation of Now & Then: Guercino & Kudzanai Chiurai is in line with the museum’s ethos of hosting international works and exhibitions and encouraging intercultural understanding. The opening of the show also coincided with the first Free Wednesday (free entry for all citizens of African countries from 10 am to 1 pm as part of the museum’s Access for All policy) in July and the South African winter school holidays.
WHAT: Now & Then: Guercino & Kudzanai Chiurai
Exhibition Organisers Gcotyelwa Mashiqa and Julia Kabat, Zeitz MOCAA, in partnership with the Consulate of Italy, Cape Town