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Prof. Karen von Veh

Prof. Karen von Veh
Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture
Department of Visual Art
Professor and HoD

Contact Details
119, FADA Building
+27(0)11 559 1113

Head of Department: Visual Art
Module Leader: Art History & Theory
Lectures in:
Art History II & III
Art Theory IV
Postgraduate Studies​

Qualifications: BA (UNISA), BA Hons. (WITS), MA (History of Art) (WITS), PhD (Rhodes)

Short Biography:

Prof. Karen von Veh is Professor of Art History and Theory and current Head of the Visual Art Department. She is an art historian and is responsible for all the art history programmes in the department. She also lectures in art history and theory at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels and supervises at Masters and PhD level. She is on the board of SAVAH (SA Visual Arts Historians) and on the international board of AICA (International Art Critic’s Association). She also serves on the editorial board of De Arte, an academic art historical journal published by Taylor & Francis. Her research interests are: contemporary South African women’s art, gender and post-colonial studies and the subversive reuse of religious icons in contemporary art. She has written two books and several book chapters, many journal articles and presented many papers internationally on these topics. In addition she has curated an exhibition based on her PhD thesis entitled Deconstructing Dogma; which was held at the UJ Art Gallery in May 2014.  She was also co-curator of the South African Exhibition for the Beijing Biennale in 2015.  This was the first time the Biennale in Beijing has had an exhibition from anywhere in Africa.

Recent Publications:
Books and Book Chapters:
2019    von Veh, K.  “Feminism as Activism in Contemporary South African Art.”   In M. Buszek and H. Robinson (Eds.). A Companion to Feminist
        Art. Wiley Blackwell.
2017   von Veh, K.  “Unsanctioned: The inner city interventions of Julie Lovelace.”  In K. Miller and B. Schmahmann (Eds.) Bronze Warriors and
        Plastic Presidents: Public Art in South Africa, 1999-2015.  Bloomington: Indiana University Press. pp.240-264.
2017   von Veh, K.  “The artist as Collector” in Jaco van Schalkwyk: Arium. Cape Town: Barnard Gallery. 40-47.
2016   von Veh, K.  “Who is Mary Magdalene?”  In Majak Bredell’s Many Magdalenes Exhibition Catalogue, pp. 4-9.
2015   von Veh, K.  “South African Art in a Time of Democracy.”  In The Album of the 6th Beijing International Art Biennale, China.  Beijing:
        Foreign Languages Press, pp. 357-381.
2015   von Veh, K.  “The Role of Art in Human Rights.”  In Art of Human Rights Catalogue. Durban: Durban University of Technology. p.24.
2014   von Veh, K.  Deconstructing Dogma: an exhibition of transgressive Christian iconography in South African art.  Exhibition
        catalogue. Johannesburg: University of Johannesburg.
2013   von Veh, K.  “Vindicating the Vilified: Majak Bredell’s celebration of lost lives.” Roll Call. Catalogue.  pp.4-7.
2012   von Veh, K. “Life, Loss and Transience in the work of Diane Victor.”  Diane Victor: Burning the Candle at Both Ends.  Johannesburg: David
        Krut. pp.5-78.
2011   von Veh, K. “Faith or expediency / religion or art?:  A consideration of contemporary transgressive religious images.”  In F. Rankin-Smith
        (ed.) Figuring Faith: Images of Faith in Africa.  Johannesburg: Fourthwall Books. pp.174-186.
2009   von Veh, K. “Saints and Sinners: Re-Evaluating gendered power bases entrenched by religious imagery.” In A.A. du Preez (ed.) Taking a
        Hard Look: Gender and Visual Culture. Newcastle on Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing. pp.47-70.
2009   von Veh, K. “Black Madonnas and Other Alternatives: an investigation of the goddess tradition in Majak Bredell’s art.” Majak Bredell:
        2 Exhibitions. Catalogue. pp.4-7.
2008    von Veh, K. ”Gothic Visions: Violence, Religion and Catharsis in Diane Victor’s Drawings.” In Rankin, E & von Veh K. Taxi 013 Diane
        Victor. Johannesburg: David Krut Publishers. pp.50-94.

Recent Journal Articles:  
• 2018  "Revisiting Religion: Iconoclasm as Renewal in Post-Apartheid South Africa" IKON 11: Journal of Iconographic Studies, Vol 11. June 2018.
pp. 205-214.
•       2017  “Textual Textiles: Gender and Political Parodies in the work of Lawrence Lemaoana.”  Textile: Cloth and Culture. Vol.15, No.4. pp. 442-460.
2017  “The Role of Beauty and Perfection in Marian Iconography: Contemporary responses to controversial images of the Virgin Mary by Chris Ofili and
        Diane Victor.”  IKON 10: Journal of Iconographic Studies. Vol.10. June 2017. pp.359-368.
2016  “Contemporary Iconoclasm in SA: Transgressive Images of Madonna and Christ in response to social politics.”  IKON 9: Journal of Iconographic
        Studies. Vol.9.  June 2016. pp.355-362.
2015  “Unsanctioned: The Ceramic Artworks of Julie Lovelace.”  Ceramics: Art and Perception.  No.102. December 2015. pp. 50-55.
2015  “Deconstructing Religion through Art: Wim Botha’s Images of Christ.”  IKON 8: Journal of Iconographic Studies. Vol.8. June 2015. pp.181-192.
2014  “Deconstructing Dogma: Transgressive Religious Iconography in South African Art.”  De Arte 89.  June 2014. pp.39-63.
2013  “White/ Black/ Grey Areas: Reflections on Transition in South African Art.”  Artes Magazine. 25 November 2013. [O]
2013  “Post-apartheid masculinity reviewed through the lens of Christian iconography: The work of Conrad Botes and Lawrence
        Lemaoana.” Communicatio: South African Journal for Communication Theory and Research. Vol.39. no.2. 2013. pp.271-291.
2012  "Diane Victor, Tracey Rose, and the Gender Politics of Christian Imagery."  African Arts. Winter 2012.Vol.45. no.4. pp.22-33.  
2012  “The intersection of Christianity and Politics in South African art: a comparative analysis of selected images since 1960, with emphasis on the post-
        apartheid era.” De Arte 85.  2012. pp.5-25.
2012  “How to make a national resource into a global treasure: Paul Weinberg and the UCT Visual Archives.” De Arte 85. 2012. pp.73-79.

Recent Conference Papers: 

•       2018  Transitional Politics and the Fragility of Memory in South African Art. A paper presented at the AFSAAP Conference: Africa in Transition:                            Governance, Society and Culture.  Held at the University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia from the 21-23 November 2018.

•       2018  Transition in South African Art seen through the lens of Christian Iconography. A paper presented at the ASAUK Conference held at the                              University of Birmingham, 11-13 September 2018.          

•       2018  Revisiting Religion: Iconoclasm as renewal in post-apartheid South Africa. A paper presented at the annual SAVAH Conference: Troubling                          Legacies. Hosted by the Department of Visual Arts at Stellenbosch University, 4-6 July 2018.        

•       2018  Contemporary Martyrdom in Diane Victor's No Country for Old Women. A paper presented at the Twelfth International Conference of                                   Iconographic Studies: The Iconography of Pain.  Held at the center for Iconographic Studies, Rijeka University, Croatia, 31 May-1 June 2018.      

•       2017  Undermining hegemonic masculinity in South Africa: a discussion of works by Lawrence Lemaoana.  A paper presented in the panel:                                  New perspectives on feminism and gender studies – South Africa and Beyond.  In the ACASA Triennial Conference, Accra, Ghana.  8-13 August '17. 

•       2017  Iconoclasm as Renewal in South African Art.  A paper delivered at the Eleventh International Conference of Iconographic Studies: Iconoclasm                    and Iconophilia. Held at the centre for Iconographic Studies, Rijeka University, Croatia, June 1 – 3 2017.

2016  Moving the boundaries through Art: Diane Victor’s critical response to gendered violence in South Africa. A paper delivered in the
        Literature, Culture and the Arts session of the 39th AFSAAP Annual Conference, Africa: Moving the Boundaries, held at the University of
        Western Australia, Perth, 5-7 December 2016. 
2016  Textual Textiles: Gender and Political Parodies in the work of Lawrence Lemaoana. A Paper delivered in Intertextual Textiles: Parodies
        and Quotations  in Cloth.  Conference held at the SARChi venue, UJ, 30 November to 2 December 2016.
2016  The evolution of Feminism in the work of Diane Victor.  A paper delivered in session 10: Gendered Practices, rubric 1: Globalising gender
        studies, feminism and queer theory as part of the 34th Congress of the International Committee of the History of Art: CIHA 2016, held in Beijing,
        China, September 15-21, 2016.
2016  The role of Beauty and Perfection in Marian iconography - Contemporary responses to controversial images of The Virgin Mary by Chris Ofili
        and Diane Victor. A paper delivered at the Tenth International Conference of Iconographic  Studies: Marian Iconography East and West.  Held at the
        centre for  Iconographic Studies, Rijeka University, Croatia, June 2 – 4 2016.
2015  “Christian imagery as a reflection of transforming politics in South African Art.” A paper presented at Twenty First Century Tensions and
        Transformations, the 38th Annual AFSAAP (African Studies Association of Australia and the Pacific) Conference held in Melbourne from 28th-30th
        October 2015.
2015  “South African Art in a Time of Democracy.”  A paper presented at the International Symposium of the Sixth Beijing International Art Biennale,
        held in the Beijing International Hotel, China, on 25th Sept 2015.
2015  “The Politics of Memory in South African Art.”  Presented at : Power and Visual Culture, the 30th Annual SAVAH Conference held at the
        University of Kwa-Zulu Natal, ietermaritzburg from 10-12 September 2015
2015  “Christian Iconography as a vehicle for political commentary in South African  art.”  A paper presented at the Sixth European Conference on African
        Studies (ECAS-6) held in Paris 8-10 July 2015 at the Sorbonne and at the École pratique des hautes études (EPHE).
2015 Invited Speaker: “Picturing language: The work of Willem Boshoff.” A paper presented at the First International Symposium: Forum of
        Eastern Cultures in the  21st Century. Held in Beijing, China at Peking University, 6-8 June 2015.  
2015  “Contemporary Iconoclasm in South Africa: transgressive images of the Madonna and Christ in response to social politics.”  A paper presented
        at Icons and Iconology. The Ninth International Conference of Iconographic Studies, held at the Center for Iconographic Studies, Faculty of
        Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Rijeka from 4-6 June 2015.
2015  “The Politics of Memory in South African art.” A paper presented at Between Democracies 1989-2014: Remembering, narrating and
        reimagining the past in Eastern and Central Europe and South Africa. Conference held at University of Johannesburg, 13-15 March 2015
2014  “Contemporary iconoclasm in South African art.” A paper presented at the 29th Annual SAVAH Conference: Images and Media, held at
        the University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, 3 – 5 July, 2014
2014  Invited speaker: “Deconstructing Religion through Art?: Wim Botha’s images of Christ.” Paper presented at the Eighth International Conference
        of Iconographic Studies: Christian Iconography and Modern and Contemporary Art. Held at the University of  Rijeka, Croatia, 03 – 06 June, 2014
2014  “The Sacred as Secular: Responses to transgressive Christian imagery in a South  African context.” A paper delivered in the panel
        “Controversial Visual Culture  in Africa: The politics of displeasure and censorship” at the 16th ACASA Triennial Symposium on African art. Held at the
        Brooklyn Museum, New York, 19-22 March 2014.
2013  Congress Address (invited speaker): “White/ Black/ Grey Areas: Reflections on Transition in South African Art.”  Delivered at White Places,
        Black Holes, the 46th AICA (International Art Critics Association) International Congress.  Košice / Bratislava, 24-27 September 2013.
2013  “The How and Why of Responding to social Injustice in South African Art Now.” A paper delivered at Visual Arts and Art History Now: How?
        What? Why? The 28th Annual Conference of the South African Visual Arts Historians, held at Michaelis, Cape Town, from 5-8 September 2013.
2012  “Post-apartheid masculinity reviewed through the lens of Christian iconography: the work of Conrad Botes and Lawrence Lemaoana.” A
        paper presented at Work/Force: South African Masculinities in the Media. Held at Stellenbosch University. 13-14 September 2012.
2012  “The Virgin Mary as a feminist icon in the work of Diane Victor.” A paper delivered in section 16 (the Gendered Object) of the CIHA Congress 
        2012:  The Challenge of the Object.  Held in Nuremberg, 15-20 July 2012.
2012  “Interpretations of Biblical sacrifice in dialogue with contemporary South African life.”  A paper delivered at Visual Dialogues: South Africa
        in conversation. A conference organised by the South African Visual Arts Historians (SAVAH) and held at UNISA from 5-7 July 2012. 

Public lectures / speeches:
2017 Public lecture presented at Hartford University, USA. 8 Feb 2017: The aftermath of apartheid in South African art. 
2017 Public lecture on: The ambivalent trajectory of Feminist art in South Africa, presented at Macalester College, Minnesota, USA. 10 Feb 2017.
2017 Opening of “Arium” an Exhibition of work by Jaco van Schalkwyk at the Barnard Gallery in Cape Town on 22 August 2017.
2016 Exhibition opening speech: Majak Bredell’s Many Magdalenes. UJ Art Gallery 10 August 2016.
2014 Public lecture presented at the Dom umenia/Kunsthalle Bratislava on Wednesday 11 June 2014 at 6.30pm.  Titled: Deconstructing Dogma:
                        an exhibition of transgressive Christian iconography in South African art.
2013  Exhibition opening: Majak Bredell’s Roll Call. March 2013 at the University of Johannesburg Art Gallery.

Curatorial Production:
2015 Co-curated: South African Art in a Time of Democracy. A special exhibition to showcase contemporary South African Art at the Sixth
                        Beijing Biennale, China, from 23 September to 17th October 2015.
2015 Co-curated: Between Democracies 1989-2015: Commemoration and Memory.  An exhibition including 50 artists from Eastern and
                        Central Europe and South Africa held at Constitution Hill, Johannesburg, from 3-30 September 2015.
2014 Curated:  Deconstructing Dogma: An Exhibition of Transgressive Christian Iconography in South African Art.  Held at the University
                        of Johannesburg Art Gallery from 6-29 May 2014.

Professional Affiliations:
•      2016-2019         Appointed to the international board of AICA (International association of art critics). (Have been an AICA member since 2014)
•      2016-2019         Appointed to the Editorial board of Jazdec / Rider, Slovak/ Central European art journal.
•      2008-2019         Member of De Arte Editorial Board.
•      1996-2019         Committee member of SAVAH National Council and SAVAH membership secretary
•      2010-2019         Member of ACASA (Arts Council of the African Studies Association) U.S.A.
•      2012-2016         Member of the Board of Directors for ACASA (Arts Council of the African Studies Association) U.S.A. 
•      2012-2019         Member of CAA (College Art Association) U.S.A.
•      2013-2019         Member of African Studies Association of Australasia and the Pacific (AFSAAP) 
•      2014-2016         Vice President of SAVAH
•      2015/16             Appointed to international panel of advisors for the Global Chinese Arts & Culture Society
•      2015/16             Appointed to international panel of advisors for the Forum of Eastern Cultures in the 21st Century
•      2011-2013         President of SAVAH (South African Visual Arts Historians).
•      2007-2012         ‘Membre Titulaire’ of the International Committee of the History of Art - CIHA (Comité National d’Histoire de l’Art). 
•      2006-2008         President of SAVAH (South African Visual Arts Historians).
•      1996-1997         Chairperson of SAAAH (Gauteng Branch).
•      1994–1997        Committee member of the South African Association of Art and Architectural Historians (SAAAH) - Gauteng Branch

Alternate Contact:
Tel: 27-11-559 1117 (Mrs. E. Majola, Secretary, Department of Visual Art)
E: eldam@