n De Arte - Hidden treasures in ivory towers : the untapped wealth of South African university art collections : research

Volume 2008, Issue 77
  • ISSN : 0004-3389
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This article takes as its point of departure the ongoing financial difficulties of the South African National Gallery (SANG), reviewing the reasons that may account for its precarious status. Often at odds with those in political power, this institution has never gained financial support from the powers that be, and in turn, the majority of its visitors have typically come from a specific demographic. It is the argument of this article that as a result of this situation, universities in South Africa have found themselves in a unique position in which to empower and educate those who may not otherwise have access to artworks, and this should be actively pursued. While globally many university art collections enjoy a prominent status within their communities, and are well endowed and visited, their South African counterparts are sorely underused and undervalued. 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 could play within their society, and secondly, primary research undertaken at several universities reveals the rich and varied collections held throughout the country.

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