#TheLockdownCollection: Turning to Art in Times of Crisis

While the impact of the health and economic crisis of COVID-19 continues to spread globally, members of the YPO community in South Africa show true coronavirus leadership, launching an initiative to raise money for those in need while capturing the unfolding story of the South African lockdown through art.

Visual expressions to capture self-isolation time

Carl Bates

YPO member Carl Bates, Founder and Chief Executive of the Sirdar Group, recalls how the idea started. “The night before the lockdown started in South Africa (27 March 2020), I was sitting watching TV with my 17-month-old son and thought about the unique moment we were witnessing,” says Bates. “I wanted to capture these extraordinary times in history and culture, looking beyond the immediate economic and health crisis, through the eyes of South African artists.”

The next day, he developed the idea further with YPO spouse Lauren Woolf, Founder and Owner, MRS WOOLF, and Kim Berman, Founding Director, Artist Proof Studio and Professor at The University of Johannesburg. Together, they launched a new charitable initiative aimed at engaging South African artists to raise much needed funds for those in dire financial need as a result of COVID-19, including artists.

Crisis Leadership: Stepping up for the arts

Crisis leadership in action

Lauren Woolf

Woolf and Berman used their networks in the local art scene to gather submissions of inspiring pieces of art, from some of South Africa’s most prominent artists and others, reflecting different impressions of the new reality.  The strategy was to feature a collection of 21 art pieces, revealed each day during the lockdown period. Every piece forms part of an historic “Lockdown Collection” that will be hosted online and sold during the 21 days, with a final online event on 16 April (Day 21).

“Anyone can support the initiative by purchasing art pieces showcased on the #TheLockdownCollection social media platforms, and all proceeds generated from the campaign will be split among the President’s Solidarity Fund, a newly created Vulnerable Visual Artist Fund and the participating artist,” explains Woolf, stressing the importance of supporting artists and the art world through, and on the other side, of the crisis.

“COVID-19 has changed the world,” adds Berman. “Its impact is still unimaginable. Art and artists have always been a critical part of society and culture. Like everyone, they are deeply affected by the calamity of COVID-19. Many have or will lose their livelihoods and have little means to survive. But they absolutely must. They are humanity’s lens and the visual authors of our time.”

Showing true coronavirus leadership

Kim Berman

Artists offering inspiration and comfort

In one piece of work titled “View from August House,” the artist Gordon Froud depicts a view of Johannesburg from the rooftop of August House, a famous art building in Johannesburg’s inner city.

“In the time of lockdown, the lack of people is definitely part of the narrative as we have been forced into isolation … this leaves the city as an eerie place,” says Froud. “The emptiness and loneliness of an unpeopled city seems strangely prophetic and somewhat poignant.”

On the second day of the campaign, artist Lindo Zwane was featured, focusing on the human side of the lockdown. “I’m thinking of how we, as individuals and as a community, can rise again despite our challenges. How to meditate and look deep within to find strength for not only ourselves but also others no matter how fearful we are of this pandemic,” he adds.

Sustaining generosity and leadership

Within 24 hours of the launch, Bates and Woolf were able to mobilize the YPO global community as well as other local business leaders to help underwrite each piece of art. Bates adds, “With people contributing an average of USD2,000 per artwork, per day, we were able to ensure that even if no one bids for the art piece, it was guaranteed to be sold. And it proved an amazing way for those with means to contribute and get something in return.”

Within the first four days of the campaign, the equivalent of USD50,000 was raised to assist the most vulnerable segments of society in South Africa’s already fragile economy.

“The feedback from the art community has also been overwhelming. Different forms of visual arts, including sculpture, paintings and ceramics, have been submitted by well-known and emerging artists, with a growing waiting list,” says Woolf. “We are still developing the model, but we hope to open submissions to create more collections. Everyone wants to contribute and help, and the art community needs to survive.”

While the plan for the online campaign is to run across various social media platforms until 17 April 2020, the momentum so far shows the potential to extend beyond the date and beyond South Africa.

“We believe that many artists will begin to create their own ‘lockdown works’ inspired by their colleagues and heroes,” explains Bates. “We hope to continue this movement as long as required, to make it as sustainably helpful as we can into the future, while creating a uniquely South African viewpoint of this period.”

For more info visit thelockdowncollection.com

For more crisis leadership stories like these check out the COVID-19: Leading Through Crisis page on YPO.org. All YPO members can find breaking news, offer insights and view current discussions happening about COVID-19 impact within the YPO community on the YPO member-only platform.

Rola Tassabehji is a writer and content marketing specialist with background in global brand management experience at Unilever and higher education at INSEAD. She is passionate about sharing stories of accomplished business leaders and has been interviewing chief executives and thought leaders from around the world for the past eight years.