Meet the judges: Pfunzo Sidogi

This year we welcome Pfunzo Sidogi to our judging panel. As a lecturer in the Department of Fine and Applied Arts at the Tshwane University of Technology and a co-founder of a non-profit organisation Ithuteng ( that works on improving the standard of art at selected schools within the City of Tshwane, he is as passionate about education as he is about art. We sat down with Sidogi to get his views on this year’s competition and the art scene in general….

Share your thoughts on being selected as part of the judging panel for Sasol New Signatures 2018?

Being one of the judges of such a prestigious competition is truly an honour and a significant responsibility. As judges, we are provided with front row access to the most avant-garde art in the country, but simultaneously we have the burden of evaluating and predicting the type of art that should be seen as the ‘best’ of this generation.

As a judge, what are you most looking forward to?

I am extremely excited to tap into the creative consciousness of 21st century African urbanites. The majority of the artworks submitted to the competition emanate from the rapidly growing urban spaces of South Africa and even the works entered by those artists who live outside the urban centres have, to some degree, been shaped and influenced by the urban environment. So in effect, what we see in the various submissions are visual interpretations and imaginings of urban South Africa and its place within the global theatre of modernity.

In your opinion what role do competitions of this nature in play in terms of developing and identifying local talent?

Competitions such as the Sasol New Signatures are a rare platform, especially within an African disposition, for emerging artists to advance their careers as professional practicing artists. Like any other industry, competitions or ranking systems give an opportunity to the most promising talent to gain the recognition and support they need to establish sustained careers.

What function does Sasol New Signatures have in the world of South African Art?

Sasol New Signatures competition plays a significant role within the value chain of art production, appreciation and consumption. As a form of art criticism and appraisal, this competition provides the public, art educators, emerging artists, scholars and patrons (both individual and institutional) with a blueprint of the most edgy and pioneering artistic forms of the era. All the artworks that make it to the final round of judging are of an exceptionally high quality, both formally and conceptually, which provides the art market with concrete measures and standards for art appreciation. In short, Sasol New Signatures competition is a barometer of the best visual creativity the country has to offer.

What would you say to artists wanting to enter the competition?

Enter. Enter. Enter. Art, by its very nature, needs to be appreciated within the public domain. Professional artists do not produce art solely for their self-pleasure; their works need to be ‘seen’, appreciated and exacted to the highest standards of appraisal. To that end, it is crucial for emerging artists to enter competitions and be comfortable with showcasing their creativity to the art viewing public.

Can you identify the current direction of South African art?

Since the industry defining Johannesburg Biennales of 1995 and 1997, South African art has exploded onto the global stage, a positive trend that is set to continue into the near future. However, on the back of these international gains there has been a steady increase in the local consumption of art, confirmed by studies commissioned by the Department of Arts and Culture since 2010. This internal consumption has afforded artists the latitude to explore highly colloquial and South African-centric themes and subject matter. Therefore, my hope is for the sustained growth in art production that appeals to a localised audience, whilst still being internationally relevant.

What advice would you give art collectors? 

The French philosopher Jean Baudrillard famously wrote, “For what you really collect is always yourself”, meaning that any artwork we decide to purchase is an extension of our identity. Therefore, my advice to art patrons is to always collect the type of art that connects with your being and if it so happens that the art you like accrues significant value after some years, then you can cash in. However, in doing so, as Baudrillard argues, you will be selling a piece of ‘yourself’.

If you could wave a magic wand and own any piece of South African Art - what would you choose and why?

Wow. I have never given any serious thought to this. Nevertheless, if I could jump into the realm of fantasy and own any South African artwork it would be the Dr Esther Mahlangu BMW 525i Art Car (1991). I would choose this truly remarkable artwork for several reasons, but chief amongst them is the fact that in my possession the car would reside on the African continent and not in a German museum, where it is inaccessible to South African audiences. (