The Art Officials

The Kalashnikovv Gallery doesn’t ask what art is, instead it answers where it can be found

Words: MJ Turpin and Mathew Dean | Photographs: Chisanga Mubanga

Murray MJ Turpin has an honours degree in fine art and a bunch of column inches about the things he’s done throughout his 30-odd years. As a photographer, DJ, director, skelmton, member of Team Uncool, artist and serial-collaborator, those 30 years have been very odd.

However, it’s the gallery that he launched with Matthew Dean, a platform for marginalised artists who question the status quo, which has not only been a pivotal player in helping to rejuvenate Braamfontein into the hipster hub it is today, but on a personal level could arguably be his biggest success to date.

And so for this month’s Maven feature we asked the Kalashnikovv Gallery’s curators to drop knowledge in their realm of expertise.

Three concepts make our gallery different from the rest. "Artist as curator", "exhibition as form" and the hybridisation between commercial gallery and project space.

Art has the ability to change perceptions and open minds. The same way a skeleton key opens many doors.  

The very nature of art questions the status quo. It gives voice to those who cannot speak. It is a platform for those who are not heard or seen. Kalashnikovv is a contemporary fine art gallery and project space that is dedicated to providing support to both emerging and established South African artists. Kalashnikovv challenges the conventions of the art gallery in its manifestation, conduct, audience and motivation. Convention has made art a pastime of the elite. Kalashnikovv is a re-articulated exhibition space, orientated towards the deconstruction of the art–space.This allows Kalashnikovv to be the first gallery to stop asking what art is, and rather answer where it can be found.

What keeps us going is those who don’t believe in us. The journey has been one of trial and error, victories and defeats. Ironically enough, the biggest mistake one can do is telling us that there is something we cannot achieve. One thing to remember, no matter what, we will always pick ourselves up and carry on fighting. We may be the under dog now, but in the blink of an eye we might become the top dog. Who the f**k knows, we sure as hell don’t?

A key point of our success is the utilisation of the Internet and social media. This collective and multi-platform development is not just for the Kalashnikovv familia's core artists, but all the artists we believe in and believe in us. We are the new wave of pioneering spirits. Creativity should never be categorised or marginalised.

We represent artists like: Marcel Marcel, Skullboy, Black Koki, M.J Turpin, Smiso Zwane, Carla Fonseca, Craig Smith, Lazi Mathebula, Nathan Vuuren, Ello Weezi… With more coming soon. Their creative spirits mirror our own and they represent the future of South African art.

The best way to get an art collection started, in our opinion, is buying students’ or emerging artists’ work, followed by more accessible mediums like printmaking or works on paper i.e. collage or drawings from more established artists.

The shrewd art appreciator should go to student shows, auctions, second-hand shops, an artist with a monkey on his back… and then look out for our soon-to-be-launched works-on-paper website portal run by said monkey. 

Is there a difference between a collector and an investor? Is there a difference between a tie and a bow tie? Essentially the only difference lies in the intent. 

If history is anything to go by, a good investment would be original paintings, which seem to be the gold standard of sorts. An original Craig smith or Marcel Marcel would be a strong contender.

If Piero Manzoni can shit in 90 tins and call it art, then what do we call Instagram in 2015? Yes, photography can be considered fine art.

It’s a tough one, but off the top of the head some of our most prized pieces are: David Koalane print, Marcel Marcel drawing, Craig Smith painting, Kevin Brand relief sculpture, AshaZero silkscreen and a Faith47 print.

Art books and prints are also worth collecting. Collect what moves you. Simple.

A good collecting strategy: Research and then be brave, bold, and most importantly, be you. 

Most art is inaccessible, because most people these days would rather take a selfie than read a book. 

To be quite honest, Joburg Art Fair is just another commercial platform. What’s more important is how an artist or entity uses that platform. 

Our gallery’s proximity to a university has an influence on the scene. Students may seem to be the free booze drinkers of today, but we choose to look at them as the artists, collectors and innovators of tomorrow.

153 Smit St, Braamfontein JHB






* All photographs by Chisanga Mubanga