Out of the Furnace: Dr Willie Bester and Wolf Werdigier

13 Mar - 14 Apr 2019

Willie Bester

For artist Willie Bester there can be no personal freedom or the freedom of expression without political freedom and fundamental rights and dignity for all. The distinguished artist and long-standing political, social justice and environmental activist has successfully used his profile as a celebrated international artist to create agency, awareness and access through art that stimulates change and sets critical conversations in motion through his work. 


Through his work he transforms matter from the materials in the form of found and discarded objects into life-infused, three dimensional sculptures and installation works that convey his passion and convictions uniquely and with an urgency that has seen him become a fearless voice of the historically silenced and earned him presidential honours and international acclaim. 


One of the most important voices in contemporary South African art he has created an impressive body of work over time which resides in key museum and private collections, and in a career spanning over twenty five years as a sculptor and visual artist, and he has become a name synonymous with activism and political agency. He has been and continues to be the voice of the disposed in Africa.


Wolf Werdigier

Artist Wolf Werdigier studied architecture in Venna and London as well as painting and design with Jaap Bakema, Xenia Hausner, Jakobo Borges, Herman Nietsch and Markus Lupertz. His works include urban designs, installations and city interventions.  He is also the visiting professor at Pratt Institute of New York and the University of Stuttgart. Wolf works in the area of interactive art and paintings with exhibitions held in Vienna, Barcelona and Vieussan, France, New York, Jerusalem, Philadelphia and Venice.  Since 2003 he has been the director and is also the founder of the International Summer Academy of Fine Arts and Media in Venice.  He is also the co-founder and artist of the Produzentengalerie Wien.

Forward Ever, Backward Never!


In drawing together two artist that traverse difference and discrimination the exhibition solidifies the need to use art as a tools for creating tolerance and allowing free expression. It also raises the important longer term question around how we continue our struggle for autonomy, freedom of expression and social justice to enshrine these rights for our artistic and creative voices in society, as securely as our rights as citizens are meant to be enshrined in our country’s constitution within the framework of democracy.


Reflecting on the importance of the work produced through this collaboration curator Beathur Mgoza Baker says: `Respect for artists and their voices is deeply symbolic of the balance and tolerance in our society. Wolf and Willie have swung open the door of history’s furnace to remind us. We need to pick up this thread continually and keep it alive so we never forget or allow history to repeat itself. How else do we observe the right to freedom of expression and curtail censorship social, political and economic injustice in a post-democratic South Africa?’.


The Melrose Gallery will facilitate a forum for collective reflection, discussion and exploration of how we address the importance of the artist’s voice and freedom of expression in the face of increasingly overt attempts at silencing and containing it.

On March 14th we will host an event that enables the space for artists, thinkers, societal leaders and community to engage in debate and discussion