British Vogue - 11.2019

(Nancy Kaufman) #1
Far left: 2017’s
Butterfly Kid (Girl) IV
by Yinka Shonibare.
Left: Liza Essers,
Goodman Gallery’s
owner-director, in
front of a painting
by Misheck Masamvu.
Below: Shirin Neshat’s
1999 Soliloquy series

Above, from left:
2018’s Untitled
VI (Marxism-
Zedong thought),
by Kudzanai
Chiurai; David
Goldblatt’s 1980
photograph Before
the Fight; Ruby
Amanze’s Wrapped
In Air One Finds
New Ground, from

  1. Below:
    Subduction Study
    #4 by Kapwani
    Kiwanga, 2017

owner-director in 2008. The gallery has a reputation for being
unblinkingly engaged with its surroundings – be it by
exhibiting David Goldblatt’s photographs of South African
society, or by courting controversy in 2012 with an infamously
explicit portrait of the country’s then-president, Jacob Zuma.
Since taking the reins, Essers has only pushed the envelope
further: she prides herself on having welcomed more than
30 international artists, more than half of whom are women.
A Goodman artist can now come from many places, work
in many mediums, but they have to share the gallery’s beliefs

  • most notably in change. “They’re really politically engaged,”
    says Stella-Sawicka. “It’s not tokenistic, it’s real.”
    Goodman’s interest in upending preconceptions applies
    to the London move, too. “One of the first clichés I want
    to nip in the bud is that Goodman is an ‘African art gallery’,”
    sighs Essers. “A number of colleagues put me in that box,
    and I think that’s very unfortunate.” Under her tenure its
    outlook has become unquestionably global, bringing in artists
    from Iran, America and Chile. It is the kind of confidence
    the capital needs, at a time when the art scene has been
    shaken by the political doubts of recent years. “People ask,
    ‘Aren’t you concerned?’” says Essers. “And I say, ‘Absolutely
    not.’ In fact, I think it’s more exciting and important to be
    opening a space like this at this time.”
    Who knows? It could even teach London a thing or two.
    “It’s quite amazing to be challenging all kinds of art history,”
    Essers says – an art history that, of course, has mostly been
    Eurocentric, white and male. She has no interest in being just
    a cool footnote: “It’s about being in it for the long run.” n

Occupying a cavernous
space of some 5,730sq ft,
Goodman Gallery will
showcase an exciting
international roster, such
as the Franco-Canadian
artist Kapwani Kiwanga and British-Nigerian Ruby
Onyinyechi Amanze. Don’t go thinking that Goodman is
trying to blend in with the status quo, though. “It’s a power
move,” grins its new director.
She would know. It takes a lot to be lured away from
Frieze, says Stella-Sawicka, 41, a born-and-bred Londoner
who launched Frieze Sculpture and brought The ’90s
and Social Work sections to the fair. But what drew her to
the position was Goodman’s dynamism, the opportunity
to work directly with artists again – she has a long-standing
relationship with Shonibare, and collaborated with him on
his Trafalgar Square Fourth Plinth, Nelson’s Ship in a Bottle,
in 2010 – and the chance to develop Britain’s ties with
Africa. “The truth is we’ve got a lot in common with
continental Africa because of our shared histories, painful
as they may be,” she says. “We’ve got a language, a lot of
history, a time zone in common.”
Goodman has always been radical, not least in representing
black artists who, during apartheid, weren’t officially permitted
to be in the building. “We often hear stories of someone
spotting that the police were coming, so the black artists
would quickly slip into waiters’ clothes and pretend they were
serving the whites,” says Liza Essers, 45, who took over as




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