Cape Town - 141118 - Project managers and workers did a final test run of lighting of the SunStar before the big "unveiling" event tomorrow evening. The ball inside the SunStar is made using parts of the fence that once surrounded Robben Island. It is believed it will remain on Signal Hill for 6 months and will have 24/7 security onsite to make sure no one climbs on it. Picture: David Ritchie

Cape Town -

A commercially sponsored structure erected on Signal Hill as a World Design Capital (WDC) 2014 project has sparked a debate about public art on the high-profile stretch of public space.

The SunStar, a 24m-high structure, is sponsored by Sun International and was launched last month.

Sun International’s logo can be seen on a container housing solar panels used to light up the structure at night.

The artwork, which cost R2 million to install, is shaped like an eight-pointed star with an internal sphere made of wiring from fencing that surrounded Robben Island prison.

A debate has been raging on social media. Kirsty Cockerill, curator and director of The New Church Museum, the first contemporary art museum in South Africa, said: “The controversy is warranted.

The SunStar as an artwork lacks merit and the crass opportunistic commodification of the medium (Robben Island fencing) is deeply problematic.

“Corporate funding is welcomed in the arts, but what has to be guarded against is corporate propaganda in the guise of public art.

“Nobody with public art insight would have supported this artwork being placed on Signal Hill.

“The by-law passed in March that enabled this structure to be installed without going through any review process is dictatorial.”

When first asked about the SunStar, the city’s Mayco member for tourism, events and economic development, Garreth Bloor, told the Cape Times: “The city deals with requests for artwork on city-owned land. The land on which the structure is located does not belong to the city. Once the Public Art Management Framework comes into operation it will guide all decisions relating to public art.”

When asked about how the SunStar related to the city’s WDC project, Bloor said: “At the time that it was accepted as a WDC 2014 project, we did not have Sun International as a sponsor.

The original project intent was to inspire individuals to contribute to the installation, which would then be dismantled after the event and shared in communities to extend its impact.”

Bloor told the Cape Times that the stretch of land on Signal Hill where the SunStar was located belonged to the SA National Parks (SANParks).

However, SANParks spokeswoman Tarcia Hendricks said the land was owned by the Department of Public Works.

“SANParks does, however, support the city’s World Design Capital project,” she said.

Department of Public Works spokesman Thami Mchunu said: “The application was received from the city as the current lessee of the site and therefore all enquiries should be directed to the city.”

The debate about the SunStar comes after an artwork in the form of a giant pair of sunglasses at the Sea Point Promenade, called Perceiving Freedom - which is sponsored by Ray-Ban sunglasses – was vandalised as a statement against its corporate reflection.

“Placing art in public spaces will always be challenging as it has to be done with intense critical engagement and sensitivity,” said Cockerill.

“The city has yet to provide a policy for public arts and even when it does, the law and policy may be there but the framework for delivering on it is compromised. The evidence was seen by the highly contentious Perceiving Freedom - the oversized sunglasses on the Promenade.”

Local artist Donovan Ward said: “There seems to be (a) pattern where the city just does as it pleases without consulting the public. These things are done very covertly. Investigations should be done into where the money involved goes.”

Sun International group manager Michael Farr said: “We have not seen any outcry. The logos can only be seen up close. Corporate sponsorship of art is absolutely critical to its survival… Everyone is entitled to have their own opinion on art.”

The SunStar will be on Signal Hill for six months before being moved to Sun International properties.

was seen by the highly contentious Perceiving Freedom - the oversized sunglasses on the Promenade.”

Local artist Donovan Ward said: “There seems to be (a) pattern where the city just does as it pleases without consulting the public. These things are done |very covertly. Investigations should be done into where the money involved goes.”

Sun International group manager Michael Farr said: “We have not seen any outcry. The logos can only be seen up close. Corporate sponsorship of art is absolutely critical to its survival… Everyone is entitled to have their own opinion |on art.”

The SunStar will be on Signal Hill for six months before being moved to Sun International properties.

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- To read social media comments on the SunStar visit www.capetimes.co.za

- Cape Times

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