The art world is a complex, dynamic and sometimes misunderstood market which is usually reduced to pretty pictures that are hanging on its walls. The people who work tirelessly to bring these artworks to the public are hardly acknowledged outside of their peers. Art dealers are the lifeline of the art world and art dealers serve as the middleman between the artists and people or institutions looking to acquire works of art: art collectors, galleries or museums. This may be the widely accepted definition of the role of the art dealer but, they cannot be boxed by these simplistic and narrow classifications.
Graham Britz who is the owner and founder, of Graham Modern and Contemporary Gallery is a man who is dismantling these outdated classifications that have long been in existence; he is breaking the status quo by paving his way in the art world through unconventional means. He is a renowned name in the South African artistic landscape, with over 30 years of experience as an exhibitor, curator and investor. In his career that spans over three decades, he has made immense contributions to the South African art landscape.
Briz has always been interested in the arts; when he was younger, he was a performance artist playing in a jazz band. He was also a gifted singer who would enchant his audience through his magnificent voice, his passion for art in its various mediums runs in his veins. He is still expressing himself through art, his gallery is his stage and people who visit it are the audiences he aims to give a magical experience every time we visit it.
His gallery is a space which aims to bring joy and happiness to people who come to visit his space. He has taken a holistic approach when it comes to the layout of his space as well as the effect he wants it to have on its visitors. The design coupled with the music that plays in his studio immediately lifts one’s mood. It’s a hyper-sensory experience which is intoxicatingly mesmerizing; it is as if you are transported to a distant euphoric reality.
He envisioned his gallery as a haven where people can escape from the mundane, burdensome tribulations that they experience in their everyday lives. It may not be possible to divorce oneself from struggles, but one is permitted to take a break. His space is to the mind what a candy shop is to a child.
What makes his space stand out is the fact that it is not filled with poverty porn nor does he exploit or glamorize black pain for a quick buck. He goes a step further by recognizing and discussing his white privilege, which came as a result of the apartheid regime.
He has taken empirical steps to use it to the advantage of those who were previously disadvantaged. He is conscious of the privileges that he receives by being a white man living in South Africa yet, he uses his privilege to uplift black artists by consciously seeking brilliant black artists which he can hang on his walls – this is not done in a way to exploit them but, to use his space to give them access to people who not have necessarily have known them. On his walls, he has talented black artists such as Fumani Maluke, Sibusiso Ngwaz, and Mncedi Madolo amongst others. He does this by inviting schools to come to visit his gallery to be exposed to the cultural world. This aligns with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals for Reduced Inequality within and between countries. This encourages people in this exclusively illusive artistic society to be introduced to black artists who create magnificent creations, the upliftment of a previously oppressed social group along with the eradication of structural economic oppression is key for attaining the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Britz’s galley aims to create an inclusive space for everyone regardless of their race, creed, gender and religion. His gallery is located inside a mall, and this was done intentionally to make it inclusive for everyone. The location of the space allows members of the public to freely walk into it and submerge themselves into the enchantingly mystical space. He plays an active role in levelling the playfield and wants to dismantle the exclusionary perception that the art world has been cloaked under. Art is meant to be enjoyed by all and its beauty is not meant for the enjoyment of a privileged few. It is important for everyone to feel that they belong in spaces and return these spaces should be welcoming to the public. This space is more than just selling art pieces, it is meant to be aspirational, inspirational and engaging. Lastly, this space also serves as a symbol of hope and resilience. has successfully created a common ground where everyone can create and engage in discussions in a way that is inclusive of everyone. The South African art world needs more art dealers like Britz who want to instil hope and make everyone feel welcome.