30 May 2015 Archived
Important South African and International Art, Johannesburg, 1 June 2015, Lot 175
Athi-Patra Ruga is as comfortable and thought-provoking expressing his ideas on sexuality, gender, consumerism, race and politics as he is in working through numerous mediums, whether video, photography, performance , interventions or textiles.
Dancing Figure, with its neon orange curlicues and leopard-print loincloth, is a typically playful and engaging example of his work. It featured in the 2012 exhibition ‘Teeth are the only bones that show’ at Ruga’s Cape Town gallery, Whatiftheworld. The work is arresting, tactile and infused with the artist’s unique if infectious sense of humour. The vertical lines of bright pink might evoke a sense of restless energy that brings to mind the artist’s recent revelation that designing tapestries allows him to ‘insert (his) performances into the 2D landscape’.
Ruga, along with other South African performance and video artists like Senzeni Mthwakazi, Arya Lalloo, Thenji Nkosi and Chris Wessels, presented their work at the Johannesburg Pavilion at the Venice Biennale earlier this month. Ruga, conducting carnivalesque figures decked out in brightly-coloured balloons, all part of an ‘absurdist funerary procession’, performed an instalment of the Future White Women of Azania to much excitement and acclaim.
Besides featuring in major local and international collections, Athi-Patra Ruga was included in Phaidon’s seminal and encyclopaedic book Younger than Jesus, which showcased a selection of the world’s best artists under the age of 33. That he featured in what has become an indispensable handbook for curators, collectors, dealers and critics should come as no surprise.
He also hit the headlines last year by becoming the first artist from the African continent to win a major commission from the luxury brand powerhouse, Louis Vuitton. Ruga was chosen to design and produce a 4 by 4 metre tapestry for the façade of the brand’s flagship Champs-Elysées store in Paris. That he was trusted with the company’s global image suggests just how finely he can tread the line between fashionista, trend-setter, performer and contemporary artis