Born: 1980 Penhalonga, Mutare
Lives and Works: Harare
Started Painting: 2002
Trained: Atelier Delta, Harare and Kunst Akademie, Munich Germany.
Key media: Oil on canvas
Key themes: Social commentary, metaphor
Key characteristics: Morphed figures, symbolism, strong colours and lines
International Exhibitions: Venice Biennale, Dakar Biennale, Johannesburg, Dubai, Paris, Amsterdam
International Collections: Australia, UK, Hong Kong, US, France, Germany, Japan,
Price comparison: 2009 $500–$2,000, 2011 $2,000–$20,000, 2014 $5,000–$30,000
What is his story: At 33 years of age, by international standards Masamvu is still an emerging artist but in Zimbabwe, he is considered the don of painting. He has definitely ticked all the boxes of accomplishment one can tick in the local art scene. His career was nurtured under the wing of Helen Leiros at Delta Gallery. She gave him his early training as a painter and supported his ambition to further his education at the Kunst Akademie in Munich. Having returned from studies, Masamvu’s ‘angry young man’ expressionist style and focus on social issues and contemporary ethical dilemmas made him stand out among his contemporaries. It also won him attention from local and international collectors and critics, meriting a selection into the Dakar Biennale of 2006. This made Masamvu a natural top new generation contender to represent Zimbabwe in its inaugural Venice Biennale Pavilion in 2011. Not content to focus on his own art practice alone, over the past couple of years Masamvu has also expanded his work to foster emerging younger talent, establishing his own studio project Village Unhu in Greendale, working side by side and guiding with a number of emerging artists.
Why you should be interested?
Masamvu is an artist with ambition, who has already achieved much at an early stage of his career. His name is readily recognised and noted when experts discuss contemporary Zimbabwean art. This bodes well for Masamvu, for despite the proliferation of new media like installation and video art, interesting and accomplished painting remain at the top of collector demand. Reputations and sustainable careers in the art world are sustained by continuous quality work and the ambition of the artist. So if Masamvu’s painting practice continues to grow and develop, to push boundaries and challenge conventions at the same rate it has done in the previous decade, he will undoubtedly gain stature and an international reputation that is reflected both in prices as well as representation in museum collections and large scale international curated exhibitions. This is an artist with major ambitions, exceptional work ethic and a big talent to support a big future.
Fun fact: Masamvu is part of a creative partnership. His wife Gina Maxim is herself an accomplished artist.
Where you can see him: Masamvu’s project Village Unhu is the best venue to see his work if you are in Harare, as well as an opportunity to meet the artist. 72 Greengrove Road, Athlone, Greendale.