Grafter is an anonymous street artist based in London since 2006. He paints murals on prominent but unloved public walls using a combination of stencils, spray paints and acrylics. Through these interventions in public space, he aims to provide an unexpected distraction to those who encounter them, offering temporary reprieve from the stresses of modern life. Grafter also produces commercial work that has been displayed in numerous galleries, and has held sold-out shows internationally. He first gained substantial recognition for his 2008 work Splash.
As with that acclaimed earlier work, Bomb It first appeared on a doorway in the streets of London before being released as a series of limited edition prints. While the stencilled boy is consistent throughout the entire print run, the explosion of colours is hand-painted with thick acrylics and is unique to each edition. The freeform burst of colour speaks to the exhilaration of creative expression. Due to health issues, he has not produced a new release since 2016, but remains a prominent feature at auction houses and galleries worldwide.
Dion Cupido was born in Mitchells Plain, South Africa. Cupido is primarily a self-taught artist, who discovered his talent for art while helping a friend with a school project in 1990. He initially began to explore his creativity through graffiti on walls in the Cape Flats. However, he quickly progressed from there to having his first exhibition of paintings in 1998. In 2003, he joined the Arts & Media Access Centre’s (AMAC) professional development program, where he won the Truworths AMAC Academy of the Visual Arts award. Cupido has held several solo exhibitions through Worldart in Cape Town.
Street art is still heavily influential in his work; however, it is mixed with planned studio-produced portraits that he calls ‘African-pop portraiture’. Cupido came to realise that his work can trigger thoughts and memories, which he now explores with his combination of abstraction and portraiture. There is a sense of palimpsest in his works, the vibrant expressionism of his faces juxtaposed with the distinctly urban edge of the overlaid graffiti script.
Paul Senyol is a Cape Town-based abstract artist. Although he received no formal artistic training, he was initially inspired to create artworks by skateboarding magazines he read as a teenager. This prompted him to explore ‘free art’ in the early 2000s, exhibiting on street corners to unexpected audiences. He frequently draws from the graphic design found in various album covers, library books, magazine layouts, and illustrations to create his distinctive aesthetic.
Inspired by artists such as Andy Warhol, Jean-Michael Basquiat, and Henri Matisse, Senyol’s work celebrates details of everyday life through colour, line, and form. He makes use of diverse mediums such as acrylics, pastels, ink, pencils, and spray paint to create an interesting mix of textures and tones for his two-dimensional surfaces; which also range in variety from canvas to found objects.
Paintings such as Manifesto aim to translate the emotional experience of urban and natural spaces into spontaneous arrangements of vividly-coloured shapes and forms.
Zanele Muholi is a Johannesburg-based artist and self-proclaimed visual activist. They are one of the most celebrated photographers working today, receiving numerous honours and awards, including an honorary professorship from the University of the Arts Bremen in Germany, and a knighthood from the French Embassy.
Muholi explores what it means to be black and queer in contemporary South Africa by documenting members of these marginalized communities. Their work not only confronts how the viewer sees representations of blackness, the female body, and queer sexuality but also showcases the political issues and violence surrounding these topics.
Isililo XX exemplifies their recent turn towards self-portraiture as a means of using self-representation to defiantly critique the viewer’s gaze. This stream of Muholi’s work began with the acclaimed 2015 exhibition ‘Somnyama Ngonyama’ (meaning ‘Hail, the Dark Lioness’), which is still touring internationally as of 2021.
Norman O’Flynn is a painter and sculptor based in Cape Town. Prolific in his output, he has held numerous solo and group exhibitions, as well as workshops, around the globe. O’Flynn draws inspiration from the media and various real-world encounters, reflected in the content of his artworks. Although he tackles dark topics such as trauma, impending violence, and the state of humanity, the way he portrays these themes in his work is satirical and easily digestible. This is aided through the bold use of colour and playful imagery, ranging from comic book superheroes to ballet dancers.
This particular work forms part of a series called Timekeepers (2016 - 2019). It incorporates O’Flynn’s distinctive use of pop iconography, religious symbols, explosions, and graffiti-styled tattoos across the body of a masked figure, with an abstracted background of colour and motifs. Here, the mask serves both as a filter to protect the wearer from what they absorb, and as a means of safeguarding their identities. He views his Timekeepers as ‘glitches’ that interrupt the flow of surveillance and indoctrination in our society.
"Art is the highest form of hope,” is a line first expressed by the German painter Gerhard Richter.
The parallels and debates of the blurring of art and advertising are endless. But what is certain is that both are a reflection of a society at any given time. It’s through this perspective that we view the role of art as important to inspiring, challenging and building creative and original thought.
The Saatchi brand is synonymous with contemporary art. Charles Saatchi is one of the most influential patrons of contemporary British art, from launching the careers of Damien Hirst and Marc Quinn, to opening the Saatchi Gallery in London, which today is one of the most visited art galleries in the world.
When we opened our doors more than a decade ago, we had the vision of building our own collection. But more importantly, as a business in the ‘creative industries’, we wanted to play a meaningful role in supporting young artists. Our growing collection represents various ideologies, social commentaries and perspectives from both South Africa and African artists. And we are always looking for pieces that are challenging, interesting, inspiring and sometimes just beautiful to look at.
Outside of the collection, the agency’s commitment to art extends to it’s partnership, sponsorship and pro-bono work with the ZEITZ Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (ZEITZ MOCAA), constructed within the historic Grain Silo’s at the V&A Waterfront which was transformed by leading international architect Thomas Heatherwick.
The Museum houses the largest collection of contemporary African art in the world, and is a significant move to put African contemporary art onto the global stage. In addition to developing their advertising, marketing and communication – which included developing their full corporate identity – we sponsored the new media exhibition room.
Fueled by immense talent & originality, The M&C SAATCHI ABEL Contemporary Art Collection houses more than 120 pieces of work hanging across our Cape Town & Johannesburg campuses. Each piece is a masterclass in creativity - conceptually powerful & often containing important hard messages, but sublime and unexpected in its execution.
Maybe one day we’ll open our own gallery too.
But before that, do spend some time looking at the art on our walls.
William Kentridge is world-renowned for the charcoal-sketched stop motion animated films he produced in the 1990s. He creates unique and distinct movement in his artworks by erasing and retouching characters for specific sequences. This phantasmic visual style informs and reflects the main themes of his work: South African socio-political history, colonial oppression, conflict, transience and memory.
It is worth noting that Kentridge’s parents were prominent anti-apartheid lawyers representing significant freedom fighters such as Albert Luthuli, Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela, as well as Steve Biko’s family during the inquest following Biko’s untimely death in 1977. These significant events shaped Kentridge’s upbringing, studies and overall work as an artist, filmmaker and theatre arts activist.
Old gods have retired is notable for being one of Kentridge’s first experiments with the ‘coffee lift’ etching process, a newer sustainable technique where coffee liquid is painted directly onto an etching plate. The fluidity of the coffee allows for Kentridge’s figures to take on a dynamic painterly quality in this work, recalling his acclaimed animation.