Andrew da Conceicao, Cofounder of One of Africa’s Most Important Galleries, Dies at 53

Andrew da Conceicao, a founding director of Stevenson, one of South Africa’s first major commercial galleries, has died at 53. The gallery announced his death on Friday, the day of his passing.

With Michael Stevenson and Kathy Grundlingh, da Conceicao founded Stevenson in Cape Town in 2003 under the name Michael Stevenson Contemporary. It was at the time one of very few commercial art spaces in South Africa, and it remains one of the most high-profile galleries not only in the country but in all of Africa, making regular appearances at international art fairs.

Related Articles

‘Both, and’ at Stevenson, Cape Town and Johannesburg

Through the Lens: How Photography Became Africa’s Most Popular Art Form

Its roster now includes a host of artists based in Africa or from the continent originally, among them Edson Chagas, who won the Golden Lion at the Venice Biennale in 2013 for his Angolan Pavilion, and Jo Ratcliffe, a widely acclaimed South African photographer. Also represented by the gallery are Odili Donald Odita, Bronwyn Katz, Paulo Nazareth, Robin Rhode, Simphiwe Ndzube, Meleko Mokgosi, Barthélémy Toguo, and Portia Zvavahera.

At the time of his death, da Conceicao was one of 13 directors who owned the gallery, which also has spaces in Johannesburg and Amsterdam.

When the trio of dealers founded the gallery 20 years ago, they did so with the goal of improving the status of African artists. They had attended curator Okwui Enwezor’s Documenta 11 the year before, in 2002, and found inspiration in his focus on contemporary African art, which at that time was rarely given pride of place in international biennials.

“We looked at our local situation and wondered how it could be that Goodman was the only gallery which took an interest in contemporary art in addition to the art of the twentieth century,” da Conceicao said in an interview. “We wanted to know why so many good artists are represented in Europe but not locally. So we wanted to change this.”

He conceded that it “took a lot of grit” to get the gallery off the ground, given that the legacy of apartheid continued to impact South Africa, where, he said, white students still far outnumbered Black ones in art schools at the time.

Stevenson has earned a reputation for exhibiting rigorous work and launching many careers. Photographer Zanele Muholi has had 12 shows with the gallery; Nicholas Hlobo, known for his large-scale sculptures, has had 7 Stevenson presentations, including his debut solo show in 2006.

Born on October 22, 1969, da Conceicao was a curator at the Arts Association of Bellville in South Africa before joining Stevenson. When Stevenson opened in 2003, ArtThrob reported that de Conceicao had been “largely responsible for the upsurge in activity and excitement” at the Bellville gallery.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *