Hidden treasures in Ivory Towers : the potential of university art collections in South Africa, with a case study of UCT

Master Thesis


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University of Cape Town

This dissertation takes as its central theme the context of a university as a setting for artworks. While globally many university art collections enjoy prominent status in their communities, and are well endowed and visited, their South African counterparts are sorely underused and valued. Thus, the aim of the study is twofold; in the first instance, an argument is made for the positive and productive role South African university art collections can play within their society - and primary research reveals the rich and varied collections held throughout the country. The second focus is on one particular case study: the University of Cape Town (UCT) art collection, and the acquisition body that oversees it, the Works of Art Committee (WOAC). Through a detailed analysis of this committee's thirty-year archive, and informed by the experience of an extensive internship with the WOAC, the study provides an overview of their operation, assessing their successes and failures. What is revealed is that there are numerous problems inherent within the way in which this committee is run, and the management of the art collection in general. Aside from compositional issues within the committee itself, the fact that there is no educational integration between the collection and the university community, is highly problematic. As such, numerous suggestions are offered, with the hope that the collection can become a more meaningful presence to those on campus, and beyond. For, with a far healthier acquisition budget than the South African National Gallery, and access to a large and diverse audience, it seems as though a highly exciting opportunity is being overlooked.

Includes bibliographical references (leaves 117-123).