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UCT art committee reshapes collection

By Staff Reporter Time of article published Sep 16, 2020

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Cape Town - UCT has a long way to go to shape its current artwork collection into one that reflects the socio-cultural dynamics in South Africa and beyond its borders, said UCT Works of Art Committee (WOAC) chairperson Associate Professor Nomusa Makhubu.

WOAC aims to reshape UCT’s art collection and transform it into a resource for researchers, curators and students, and the committee oversees the display of art and its integration into campus life.

The university boasts a vast visual art collection, which comprises about 1 700 artworks across 70 UCT buildings, many of which are by South Africa’s most noted artists, as well by emerging talent.

In recent years, there’s been ongoing debate about the need to transform UCT’s art collection.

Makhubu said transformation was a priority.

“An institutional art collection maintains historical and cultural value only when it is socially responsive and when there is a measure of self-reflexivity in terms of the institutional practices it engenders,” she said.

“We have established a working group, and we are in the process of identifying the key areas that will need to be addressed.

“We recognise that we need to refine our acquisition strategy, while conserving certain artwork and diversifying the curation and site-specific installations.

“There are significant gaps when it comes to race and gender in our collection, which we have been in the process of filling in these past few years.

“We also need to develop an in-depth collection reflecting key historical categories by, for example, acquiring artworks of key African modern artists and African contemporary artists based outside of Cape Town.”

The committee is attempting to reach its goal through new acquisitions and re-curation.

“We are thrilled that works by both established and emerging artists have been purchased and are being displayed at various sites on campus.

“This is an incredible achievement,” Makhubu said.

She pointed out that the question of accessibility had been an important one for the committee, and there had not been a platform enabling all members of the UCT community to view the work in the collection and learn more about each piece.

“To help us address this, we have recently created the WOAC website to serve as an archive of past organised interventions, a platform to showcase upcoming events and an entry point to get to know the collection.”

UCT’s art collection is relatively easily accessible to the public but the website is one other way of ensuring the collection is accessible to those outside of the campus community.

“We really want it to be an educational resource that attracts researchers from other institutions and organisations both in and outside South Africa,” Makhubu said.

Cape Times

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