David Goldblatt: Photographs 1948 – 2018

MCA David GoldblattOpening Friday 19 October, the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (MCA) will present a major retrospective of internationally-renowned South African photographer David Goldblatt, featuring 357 works spanning seven decades of his photographic career.

David Goldblatt: Photographs 1948 – 2018 is exclusive to Sydney as part of the Sydney International Art Series, and will be the largest presentation of his work to be seen in the Southern Hemisphere. The exhibition comes hot on the heels of last year’s exhibition, Pipilotti Rist: Sip My Ocean, which attracted over 110,000 attendees – the largest crowd for a Sydney International Art Series exhibition that the MCA has held since the re-opening of its new building in 2012

Photographer David Goldblatt was one of the greatest living photographers of our time, noted for his portrayal of South Africa during the rise and dismantling of Apartheid. With their intense human focus, his photographs offer powerful reflection and insight into South Africa’s turbulent history.

Through his photographs, Goldblatt tells the story of his native country, its geography and its inhabitants, maintaining a singular tension between subject, territory, politics, and representation. David Goldblatt: Photographs 1948 – 2018 looks back over his career though a selection of major series, and reveals lesser-known groups of pictures, like some of his very first photos taken in the townships of Johannesburg, or his series focussed on the West Australian ‘ghost town’ of Wittenoom.

“David Goldblatt is a living legend of photography, and this exhibition is highly appropriate for the Sydney International Art Series, which brings the world’s most acclaimed international artists to Sydney,” said Museum of Contemporary Art Australia Director, Elizabeth Ann Macgregor OBE.

“Visitors will discover an extraordinary artist whose documentary eye has not strayed from the complexities of his country of birth, but resonates with other global histories (including Australia’s own) through narratives of race and racism, and industry and the land.”

The grandson of Lithuanian-Jewish migrants, who left Europe for South Africa in the 1890s to escape religious persecution, Goldblatt was born in Randfontein in 1930 and lived and worked in Johannesburg up until his recent death in June 2018. He took his first black-and-white photographs in 1948, and following the death of his father in 1962, sold the family clothing business and turned full-time to photography.

Over the next 30 years he documented the people and places, industry and landscape of South Africa under apartheid – a political system founded on racial segregation and persecution of black South Africans under white minority rule – and after 1991, its dismantling and legacy. Following the dismantling of apartheid, Goldblatt embraced colour photography, a format he had felt largely unable to consider before, due to the dark history of his country.

The exhibition, curated by MCA Chief Curator Rachel Kent in close collaboration with the artist, marks over seven decades of Goldblatt’s photography. Presented in groups and extended series, his photographs encompass the history of South Africa’s mining industry, white middle class, forced segregation of black and Asian communities into townships under the Group Areas Act, and stories of the country’s ex-offenders and their crimes. They also include Goldblatt’s parallel documentation of South African and Australian asbestos mining, including the West Australian ‘ghost town’ of Wittenoom and the human cost of this industry.

A landmark exhibition for the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, David Goldblatt: Photographs 1948 – 2018 is the first major retrospective since the artist’s death and encompasses the breadth and scope of his career up to the present. Featuring his key black-and-white and colour photographic series, as well as early vintage prints, it is contextualised by never-before seen material from his personal archive, plus a new feature-length documentary screened alongside the exhibition.


David Goldblatt: Photographs 1948 – 2018
Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, 140 George Street, The Rocks (Sydney)
Exhibition: 19 October – 3 March 2019
Admission fees apply

For more information, visit: www.mca.com.au for details.

Image: David Goldblatt – photographer Warren van RensburgDavid Goldblatt, A plot holder, his wife and their eldest son at lunch, Wheatlands, Randfontein, 1962. silver gelatin photograph on fibre-based paper. Image courtesy Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg and Cape Town © The David Goldblatt Legacy Trust

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