Kabelo Malatsie, a Johannesburg-based independent curator and former gallery director, becomes the next director of Kunstahlle Bern in Switzerland, one of the most highly regarded museums in Europe. She will take office in April 2022.
Malatsie has been a major force in the South African art scene for the past decade. From 2011 to 2016 she was director of the country’s Stevenson Gallery with locations in Johannesburg and Cape Town. For her Masters in Art History, which was awarded in 2018 at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, she focused on the history of independent art institutions in South Africa.
More recently, Malatsie was the director of VANSA (Visual Arts Network of South Africa) which includes 6,000 artists and organizations focused on contemporary art in the country, and she has also worked as an independent curator and has solo shows for artists such as Nicholas Hlobo, Moshekwa Langa, Bogosi Sekhukhuni and Sabelo Mlangeni, whose 2018 survey received recognition at the Wits Art Museum in Johannesburg. Further curatorial achievements are the exhibition “In the Open or in Stealth” in 2018 at the MACBA in Barcelona and “Deliberation on Discursive Justice”, an exhibition within an exhibition organized with the artists Michelle Wong and Lantian Xie as part of the Yokohama. The Triennale was organized in 2020.
Florian Dombois, co-president of the Kunsthalle association and chairman of the recruitment committee, said in a statement: “The board and the selection committee were not only impressed by Kabelo Malatsie’s theoretical and curatorial approach, but also by her professional experience and knowledge of the international world Scene and its way of working closely with artists and inspiring them in diverse and subtle ways. “
The appointment of Malatsie is significant as she will be the first non-European to head the Kunsthalle Bern, which has made a name for itself for its experimental range of contemporary art. Malatsie succeeds Valérie Knoll, who was the first woman to head the museum. Knoll, who became director in 2015, will step down in March 2022 at the end of her seven-year term. (Each director of the Kunsthalle Bern is limited to seven years.)
When Malatsie takes over the helm of the Kunsthalle Bern, she will also be one of the few black directors of an important museum in Switzerland. Last year, more than 60 black artists and cultural workers based in Switzerland signed an open letter calling on Swiss institutions to review the racial makeup of their curatorial staff. They reiterated this request in a second letter in 2021 that focused on the “need for a deeper confrontation with structural blind spots that are rooted in white supremacy and lead to anti-blackness”.
Malatsie was selected from a pool of around 130 candidates by a committee made up of external experts Marie José Burki, an artist and professor at the Beaux-Arts de Paris; Michy Marxuach, an independent curator based in San Juan, Puerto Rico; and Patrick Mudekereza, Director of the Center d’Art Waza in Lubumbashi, Democratic Republic of the Congo.
In a statement, Malatsie said: “Translation encompasses the politics of the linguistic body and the ideas of the world that have yet to be creatively brought to the fore. I look forward to working with the Kunsthalle Bern team to keep experimenting with curatorial and artistic practices. “