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About Alison



Alison is an accomplished artist and scholar of South African art. Alison obtained her PhD, titled Beyond the Readymade: Found Objects in Contemporary South African art in 2016. She completed her Master’s degree in Fine Art from the University of the Witwatersrand in 2004 with distinction. Alison has participated in numerous group exhibitions in South Africa, Switzerland and Australia. Alison was a finalist in the 2003 MTN New contemporaries Award, and has participated in artist’s residencies in Basel and Melbourne. She has published scholarly work on contemporary South African art, and developed education materials for engaging with art for Wits Art Museum. Alison is a recipient of an NRF Thuthuka Grant (2012-2014) that enabled her PhD research.

Prior to taking up her current full time lectureship at Wits School of Education, Alison lectured (part time) in art history and visual culture studies at the University of Stellenbosch, the University of Johannesburg and the Market Photography Workshop.


Artist's Statement

“In my artworks I utilise found objects to explore the meanings we attach to things, as well as the nature of collections and collecting.  I am interested in the relationships of subjects and objects, and the capacity of objects to hold multiple meanings, especially as they move through different social fields. The field of art production and display is one such field which influences the ontology and thus the possible meanings of objects. This current interest in objects is informed by my earlier works in which I interrogated the institutions of art, as powerful institutions that to a large extent determine cultural value and influence cultural production. Included in this interrogation was a questioning of the relationship of the artist, artwork and audience in the field of exhibition. I explored these issues through parodying different museums’ conventions of collecting, archiving and display, and through inviting audience participation in the making of interactive artworks in the gallery.”


One person exhibitions

  • Alison Kearney: Put Something in To Take Something Out and Other Recent Works at The KZNSA Gallery, Durban, April- May 2008.
  • Alison Kearney: Offerings, the Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg, January- February 2008.
  • About Context: An Exploration of Value in Four Parts, The Gallery Premises, Johannesburg Civic Theatre, November 2006.
  • Alison Kearney: Works in Progress an Experimental One Person Exhibition at 24Seven Artist’s Run Space in Melbourne, Australia, December 2005.
  • The Portable Hawkers Museum: A Retrospective, a One Person Exhibition at the Johannesburg Art Gallery, February to March 2005.
  • Originalkopien (Authentic Replicas, a one person installation at The Skulpturenhalle, Basel, Switzerland, September 2004.


Group exhibitions 

  • S[P]ACE An international group exhibition of works by 25 selected artists from Africa curated by Melissa Mboweni and Thembinkosi Goniwe for the MuseumAfrica, Newtown, April- July 2010. (Catalogue)
  • DOMESTIC  A group exhibition of works by selected women artists curated by Jackie McInnes and Melisa Mboweni at Goethe On Main, Johannesburg, August 2009 (Catalogue)
  • A group exhibition of artists’ sketch books and journals, Curated by Brendan Gray at The Gallery Premises, Johannesburg Civic Theatre, June 2007.
  • Kazoo! It’s a live art thing. A group exhibition of performance and live art at The Gallery Premises, Johannesburg Civic Theatre, December 2006.
  • Uninhabited Territories, a group exhibition of contemporary South African art, which formed part of The Next Wave Festival in Melbourne, Australia March 2006.
  • A Decade of Democracy:  Witnessing South Africa at the NSA Gallery in Durban, South Africa, September 2005. (Catalogue)
  • Makeshift: A group Exhibition, Belkin Satellite Gallery in Vancouver Canada, February 2004.
  • A Decade of Democracy:  Witnessing South Africa (Opened in Boston in April and will travel around America until November 2004).
  • Democracy and Change, a group exhibition at the Klein Karoo National Art Festival, March 2004. (Catalogue)
  • Show Us What You’re Made Of, a group exhibition at The Premises Gallery, Johannesburg, March 2004.
  • Mine(d)fields,  a group exhibition of contemporary Swiss and South African art, Kunsthaus Baselland, Basel, Switzerland, August 2004.
  • Oppitafel, A group exhibition, The Art Space, Northcliff, Johannesburg, November 2004.
  • 10 Years 100 Artists: The Exhibition Bell- Roberts Gallery, Cape Town, November 2004.
  • Ekurhuleni Fine Arts Award Exhibition, (Top 15). Coen Scholtz Recreation Center, Kempton Park, June 2003.
  • Sasol New Signatures Exhibition, The Pretoria Art Museum, Pretoria July 2003.
  • MTN New Contemporaries Art Award Exhibition, MuseumAfrica, Newtown, Johannesburg, August 2003.
  • Makeshift: A group Exhibition, Johannesburg Art Gallery, Joubert Park Johannesburg, October 2003. [The Exhibition will travel to The Belkin Satellite Gallery in Vancouver Canada in February 2004.]
  • The Red Bull Music Academy Art Exhibition, Red Bull Music Academy, Jameson Street Cape Town, November 2003.
  • Ekurhuleni Fine Arts Award Exhibition. Coen Scholtz Recreation Center, Kempton Park, June 2002.
  • Sasol New Signatures Exhibition, The Pretoria Art Museum, Pretoria July 2002.
  • Johannesburg Art City Exhibition, The Fort Johannesburg, September 2002.
  • 6 on a Scale of 1- 10: A Group Exhibition, MuseumAfrica, Newtown Johannesburg, November 2002.
  • Sasol New Signatures Exhibition, The Pretoria Art Museum, Pretoria July 2001.
  • Delight: The Illuminated Rooftop Exhibition, Wits University, October 2001.
  • Family Ties: A group Exhibition, The Sandton Civic Art Gallery, Sandton, November 1998.


Selected articles written about Alison's artwork

  • Anstey, G. ‘Fresh Eyes’ in the Sunday Times Metro August 3 2003.
  • Barish, Z. ‘Feature: Alison Kearney’ in Culture vol. 1, issue 01 April- June 2005.
  • Bester, R. ‘Alison Kearney’ in Art South Africa, vol. 4, issue 03, winter 2005.
  • Johannesburg Art City Catalogue JDA, JHB Art City and Cell C: August 2002.
  • Goniwe, T.  Alison Kearney in Goniwe, T. (ed) 2010 Space: Currencies in contemporary African Art UNISA Press in conjunction with Cassava Republic and Africa World press, Pretoria.
  • Maart, B. ‘Curating the Difference’ in Art South Africa, vol. 2, issue 01 Spring 2003.
  • McGarrey, M. “Over Your Head: Alison Kearney” in Stage edition 30 December 2005.
  • Sassen, R. Alison Kearney in Art South Africa, vol. 5, issue 03, Autumn 2007.
  • Sassen, R. ‘Manhood too small? Art might help’ in the Sunday Times Metro January 27 2008.
  • Smith, K. ‘Bright young things’ in Art South Africa, vol. 1, issue 03, Autumn 2003.
  • Smith, K.  Alison Kearney in Smith, K. (ed) MTN New Contemporaries Catalogue, MTN Foundation and MTN Free2Speak August 2003.
  • Smith, K. Alison Kearney in Perryer, S. (ed.) 2004 10 Years 100 Artists: Art in a Democratic South Africa Bell- Roberts, Cape Town.
  • Scharrer, E. ‘Heikler Dialog’ in Regioartline Kunstmagazin August 2004.
  • Terrin, C. ‘South African Art Informed by Freedom’ in The Boston Globe, April 9 2004.
  • The Trinity Session (eds.) Space Re-purposed: The Redbull Music Academy Art Exhibition Catalogue, Redbull November 2003.
  • Van Wyk, G. [ed.] “Alison Kearney” in A Decade of Democracy:  Witnessing South Africa Exhibition Catalogue, Sondela: 2004.