A lesson for Standard Bank from Sanlam


Hats off to Sanlam Private Investments for sponsoring the National Portrait Award, although many other sponsors would have done so if they could have known the R100K first prize would garner R356,600 from the R200 entry fees from 1783 entrants yielding a healthy profit of over R250K before expenses. In addition to this windfall, SPI also rake in 30% of the selling price achieved by any work sold from the exhibition. What happens to all this money and is it really fair for a public company to compete with private art galleries?

The winning portrait is a traditional one by KwaZulu-Natal artist Heather Gourlay-Conyngham and it was always going to be a shoo-in: the only finalist showing private parts for a Private Investment company. Although Heather was also the only artist to have two portraits in the Top 40, although I think I prefer the one of mum to the boy/son and his uncle.

knob 136x300 A lesson for Standard Bank from Sanlam

Hats off too, to SPI for arranging a blind judging – each portrait was rated unsigned. Although did Solly Gutman try and pull a fast one with a portrait of William Kentridge? For which judge would dare leave it out of the final in case it was a selfie? By opting to judge blind, Sanlam are light years ahead of Standard Bank whose Diners Club subsidiary owns the Platter wine guide where entries are rated with full knowledge of who produced them. Which makes things much easier.

So is this painting the best one? My own preference among the 40 finalists was for “the secret life of a mathematician” (below) by Sanell Aggenbach which has way fewer pixels. Interesting to note that well over half the finalists were ladies, confirming the privileged place of the fair sex on the SA art scene, unlike the situation in SA wine.

sanel 219x300 A lesson for Standard Bank from Sanlam