AboutIn 2022 the UCT Irma Stern Museum is celebrating 50 years since it opened its doors to the public. But in this special year, we are also celebrating another anniversary: it is 100 years since Irma Stern opened her first solo exhibition in South Africa. Titled ‘An Exhibition of Modern Art by Miss Irma Stern’, it opened on 7 February 1922 at Ashbeys’ Art Gallery, 91 Long Street, Cape Town, to indignation and disgust from a number of critics. One art critic who signed his article W.R.M. wrote in his review about the ‘general nastiness of [Irma Stern’s] work’ and that ‘no serious attention need be paid to this attempt to startle the susceptibilities of Cape Town art lovers’. If Stern’s work was to many unacceptably radical at the time, nowadays, the colours, textures and forms that so upset W.R.M. are precisely what Stern is celebrated for.
Fascinatingly the exhibition in 1922 comprised 96 watercolours, oils, prints and drawings, as well as 28 objects made from painted silk, such as tablecloths and tea cosies – strange to us now but much in keeping with art exhibitions of the time.
To mark this centenary, the UCT Irma Stern Museum will host an overview of Stern’s formative years as an artist. This overview, titled ‘How I Began To Paint’, was co-curated by the UCT Irma Stern Museum team and Sakhi Gcina, researcher, art historian, curator and former Curatorial Assistant at Zeitz MOCAA - Museum of Contemporary Art Africa.