The Switzerland-based Kunsthalle Bern museum has appointed Kabelo Malatsie as its next director. She will be the first non-European to don this position.
Kabelo Malatsie is a prominent curator based in Johannesburg. She is considered one of the most influential people in South Africa’s art world from the last decade. From 2011-2016, she served as the director of Stevenson Gallery. In 2018 she received her art history master’s degree from the University of Witwatersrand.
But what really makes Malatsie’s appointment stand apart is the fact that she is the first non-European person to helm the famed museum. Kunsthalle Bern is one of the most talked-about art centers in Europe in recent years. The museum has gained an impressive reputation for its experimental contemporary art collection. But it seems that the museum administration has also decided to take the progressive route. Before Malatsie, the music was helmed by Valérie Knoll – who was the first female director of the museum.
Malatsie’s appointment is also significant due to the lack of Black leadership at Swiss institutions. In 2020, 60 Black artists and workers signed an open letter that demanded Swiss institutions to introspect – a demand they reiterated this year. Malatsie now becomes one of the few Black people in leadership positions across Swiss art centers.
In a statement, Florian Dombois (co-chair, Kunsthalle Bern) said:
“The board and the selection committee were impressed not only by Kabelo Malatsie’s theoretical and curatorial approach, but also by her professional experience and knowledge of the international scene, and her manner of working in close collaboration with artists, finding varied and subtle ways to inspire them.”
Malatsie also responded to her appointment with a statement:
“Translation encompasses the linguistic body politics and ideas of the world that are yet to be creatively brought to the fore. I look forward to working with the team at Kunsthalle Bern to continue experimenting on curatorial and artistic practices.”