Thanks for the memories

2011-11-26 00:00

ARTISTS and crafters in KwaZulu-Natal will be poorer when Sue Greenberg finally closes the doors to the Artisan Contemporary Gallery at 344 Florida Road, Durban, on Christmas Eve.

That much was evident at the opening of her final exhibition, Memories, earlier this month, which attracted such a huge crowd of well-wishers that she had to set up a marquee outside.

Memories featured the work of 30 artists with whom Greenberg has had a long association, first at the Grassroots Gallery in Westville, then at Bayside Gallery at the Bat Centre and more recently at Artisan.

The works range from paintings, ceramics and print-making to jewellery, sculptures, wood-turning and fibre works.

“It has been my pleasure and privilege to play a part in fostering and nurturing the careers of so many artists and in developing their talents over the past 28 years,” said Greenberg.

“I have thoroughly enjoyed championing South African contemporary art and craft and being part of the art community in Durban.”

Asked why she has chosen this moment to retire, she said: “You know when the time is right. I’ve done this for a long time and I have no regrets.

“My husband and I are going to do a gap year — travel and do all the things we’ve been wanting to do.

“I’ve lived in KwaZulu-Natal all my life and it’s time to try and live somewhere else. We’re planning to go to Australia and then perhaps to the south of Italy.”

Greenberg was a potter, selling her work through the Grassroots Gallery, when she heard that the business was up for sale because the then-owner, Vera Poole, was emigrating to Australia.

With Beryl Brink she decided to take the plunge into the commercial art world, beginning a partnership which would last for 12 years.

The partnership was brought sadly to end by Brink’s illness, and Greenberg moved to the Bat Centre in the Small Craft Harbour in Durban.

She first planned to open a craft shop, but when the idea wasn’t greeted with much enthusiasm she opened the Bayside Gallery instead.

“It went really well until the Bat Centre started to get run down and scruffy and people stopped coming,” she recalled. “People felt it was unsafe and it was a little out of the way, so they didn’t want to visit. I never had a problem. I was never hassled, and the artists looked out for people who came along because it was their livelihood.”

But with trade falling Greenberg realised she needed to find a new venue.

“We were looking for somewhere to rent or buy and then we saw this property, which at the time had a big pink wall across the front. There was a ‘For sale’ board, so we had a look around.

“I knew that with a few changes it would be perfect.”

It took the Greenbergs a year to get the planning permission they needed to make major renovations.

“Because the house was built in 1926 we had to get permission from Amafa, but they actually told us to go ahead with a flat roof, and I was really thrilled because it meant I could put in skylights,” she said. The result is a light, airy space, which is perfect for showing off art.

Most of the works at the gallery are sourced from KwaZulu-Natal artists and crafters.

Asked for her thoughts on the state of the South African artworld, particularly in KwaZulu-Natal, she said some artists, like Andrew Verster, Pieter Hugo and Deborah Bell, fetch good prices, but relatively unknown artists are struggling.

She also worries that few young people seem interested in visiting galleries.

“I can’t quite work it out. It seems that it’s not cool for young people to be seen in a gallery. Perhaps it has to do with parents not exposing their children to art … perhaps they are intimidated to go to a gallery. But if you don’t have an open mind, how will you ever be exposed to it?”

As to the future of Artisan, Greenberg is hoping that someone else will pick up from where she is leaving off and continue to provide a showcase for the finest South African contemporary art and craft.

The Memories exhibition runs at the Artistan Contemporary Gallery until December 24. Inquiries: 031 312 4364.

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions. publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.