Works from living archive of South Africa’s LGBT+ community by Zanele Muholi acquired at Frieze London Nottingham Castle Museum & Art Gallery

2 October 2019 By

11 works from the renowned living archive of photographs that commemorates and celebrates Black lesbians, trans and gender non-conforming individuals in South Africa has been acquired by the Contemporary Art Society at Frieze London for Nottingham Castle Museum & Art Gallery.

Entitled Faces and Phases, 2006-present, the portraits by South African artist Zanele Muholi (they/them) are an act of visual activism in a country where, although their rights are constitutionally protected, LGBT+ people are too often subject to violence and prejudice. Muholi’s process is empowering of the artist’s sitters, who are often friends, foregrounding their creativity, their presence and individuality. Muholi operates from inside the community they depict, positioning the work as a form of activism, an act of resistance that insists upon the presence of the black, queer and trans community in South Africa.

When Nottingham Castle Museum & Art Gallery re-opens in Spring 2021 following a £30million redevelopment project, the eleven photographic portraits by Muholi will be a central part of the new displays, designed to open out discussion and introduce an important international perspective on  the violence and discrimination that the LGBT+ community still faces today.

Ron Inglis, Chief Operating Officer, Collections, Nottingham City Museums, said: “Nottingham City Museums has collected the work of contemporary artists since the founding of the Art Museum at Nottingham Castle in 1878. However, the addition of this powerful group of portraits by international photographer and visual activist Zanele Muholi is an especially significant addition to our Fine Art collection at the moment, when the Castle’s history of protest and popular uprising is at the forefront of its major redevelopment. We are grateful to the Contemporary Art Society and their sponsors for this generous award.”

Born in Durban and living in Johannesburg, Muholi’s self-proclaimed mission is ‘to re-write a black queer and trans visual history of South Africa for the world to know of our resistance and existence at the height of hate crimes in SA and beyond’. Muholi’s work was prominently featured at the 58th Venice Biennale and is receiving a major mid-career survey at Tate Modern in April 2020. They co-founded the Forum for Empowerment of Women (FEW) in 2002, and in 2009 founded Inkanyiso, a forum for queer and visual (activist) media. They continue to train and co-facilitate photography workshops for young women in the townships.

Caroline Douglas, Director, Contemporary Art Society, said: “The Faces and Phases series of portraits has been widely seen internationally in recent years; this will be the most significant acquisition of Muholi’s work in the UK to date.  It gives audiences in Nottingham the opportunity to see one of the most talked-about bodies of work by one of the most exciting international artists working today. Muholi’s participation in Documenta 13 in 2012 and in the curated section of this year’s Venice Biennale have brought them to even wider recognition, so this acquisition feels both powerful and timely.”

Victoria Siddall, Director, Frieze Fairs, said: “It is so meaningful for artists to enter museum collections and for their work to be seen by a broad public. We are thrilled that the CAS Fund continues at Frieze this year and that it has enabled The Nottingham Castle Museum to acquire Zanele Muholi’s powerful portraits from Stevenson Gallery.”

The Contemporary Art Society’s Collections Fund was set up in 2012 and is designed to support the acquisition of significant contemporary works for Contemporary Art Society museum members across the UK, drawing together the knowledge and experience of private collectors with that of museum curators.

The Collections Fund at Frieze was awarded to Nottingham Castle after a competitive application process open to the Contemporary Art Society’s 70 Museum Members across the UK. The work acquired through the Collections Fund at Frieze will form part of the opening displays at the museum when it re-opens in Spring 2021.

For all press enquiries and images please contact:

Marcus Crofton, Communications Manager, Contemporary Art Society
+44 (0)20 7017 8412


Notes to Editors:


Muholi studied Advanced Photography at the Market Photo Workshop in Newtown, Johannesburg, and in 2009 completed an MFA: Documentary Media at Ryerson University, Toronto. In 2013 they became an Honorary Professor at the University of the Arts/Hochschule für Künste Bremen.

Awards and accolades received include the Rees Visionary Award by Amref Health Africa (2019); a fellowship from the Royal Photographic Society, UK (2018); France’s Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (2017); and the Mbokodo Award in the category of Visual Arts (2017).

Recent solo exhibitions have taken place at institutions including the Seattle Art Museum (2019); Colby Museum, Maine (2019); Spelman College Museum of Fine Art, Georgia (2018); New Art Exchange, Nottingham, UK (2018); Museo de Arte Moderno de Buenos Aires (2018); LUMA Westbau (2018); Fotografiska, Stockholm (2018); Durban Art Gallery (a survey exhibition conceptualised as a homecoming) 2017; Market Photo Workshop, Johannesburg (2017); Glasgow School of Art (2017); Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam (2017); Autograph ABP, London (2017); Maitland Institute, Cape Town (2017) and North Carolina Museum of Art (2016). The Faces and Phases series has been shown at the South African Pavilion at the 55th Venice Biennale (2013); dOCUMENTA 13 (2012), and the 29th São Paulo Biennial (2010). Zanele Muholi is represented by Stevenson Gallery.


Founded in 2012, the Contemporary Art Society’s Collections Fund is designed to support the acquisition of significant contemporary works for Contemporary Art Society museum members across the UK. For 2019 the Contemporary Art Society is once again partnering with Frieze London, with the Collections
Fund at Frieze purchasing a major work at the fair for Nottingham Castle Museum & Art Gallery. A key aim of the scheme is to draw together the knowledge, experience and expertise of private collectors with that of museum curators in a programme of research leading to an acquisition. Past acquisitions through the Collections Fund have included works by Simon Fujiwara for Leeds Art Gallery (2013); Ben Rivers for Royal Pavilion & Museum, Brighton & Hove, and Bristol Museum & Art Gallery (2014); Hito Steyerl for GoMA, Glasgow (2015); John Akomfrah and Kader Attia for mima, Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art (2016), Dineo Seshee Bopape for Towner Art Gallery, Eastbourne (2017); and Kehinde Wiley and Zadie Xa for The Box, Plymouth in 2018.

The Collections Fund at Frieze is co-chaired by The Lady Lupton, with Jill Hackel and Anna Yang. The committee includes: Hugo Brown, Nicola Blake, Karin Cardiff, Emma Goltz, Pamela Stanger, Liese Van Der Watt and Cathy Wills.


The Contemporary Art Society champions the collecting of outstanding contemporary art and craft in the UK. Since 1910 the charity has donated thousands of works by living artists to museums, from Picasso, Bacon, Hepworth and Moore in their day, through to the influential artists of our times. Sitting at the heart of cultural life in the UK, the Contemporary Art Society brokers philanthropic support for the benefit of museums and their audiences across the entire country. Their work ensures that the story of art continues to be told now and for future generations.


Nottingham Castle was built in 1068 and grew to be the most important Royal castle outside London. Virtually demolished during the Civil War, it was purchased in 1663/4 by William Cavendish, 1st Duke of Newcastle upon Tyne (1593-1676), who had it rebuilt as a ducal mansion, inspired by Palladian architecture and the Duke’s travels on the Continent. The mansion was gutted by fire during political riots in 1831 and remodelled in 1878 as the first municipal art gallery and museum outside London, with a collection of art and design objects designed to mirror the Victoria and Albert Museum. Nottingham Castle is currently closed during its £29.4 million transformative capital redevelopment programme. This includes the refurbishment of the 17th century Ducal Palace and its grounds, new displays of Nottingham City Museums and Galleries’ collections of Fine Art and Decorative Arts and the redevelopment of a suite of galleries on the ground floor for temporary exhibitions.


Frieze is the world’s leading platform for modern and contemporary art for scholars, connoisseurs, collectors and the general public alike. Frieze comprises three magazines—frieze, Frieze Masters Magazine and Frieze Week—and four international art fairs—Frieze London, Frieze Masters, Frieze New York and Frieze Los Angeles. Additionally, Frieze organizes a program of special courses and lectures in London through Frieze Academy.

Frieze was founded in 1991 by Matthew Slotover and Amanda Sharp, with the launch of frieze magazine, the leading international magazine of contemporary art and culture. In 2003, Sharp and Slotover launched Frieze London art fair, which takes place each October in The Regent’s Park, London. In 2012, they launched Frieze New York, which occurs each May in Randall’s Island Park, and Frieze Masters, which coincides with Frieze London in October and is dedicated to art from ancient to modern. In 2019, Frieze launched Frieze Los Angeles, which took place February 14–17, 2019 at Paramount Pictures Studios, Los Angeles.