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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:Civilising the Cape: public art exhibitions and Cape visual culture, 1851-1910
Authors:Tietze, Anna
Botha, Nicholas
Periodical:Journal of Southern African Studies (ISSN 1465-3893)
Geographic terms:South Africa
Subjects:visual arts
External link:https://doi.org/10.1080/03057070.2014.966291
Abstract:Public art galleries in South Africa, in particular the South African National Gallery in Cape Town, owe their establishment to the energetic debates on the role of art and public art galleries that were prevalent in Europe during the 19th century. These debates focused on the ability of art to educate and civilise, and such ideas travelled along imperial networks to the Cape and Australia, where they were negotiated in local contexts. At the Cape, a series of public art exhibitions was initiated with the intent of establishing a permanent art collection and gallery, the ultimate aim being to provide a space in which to cultivate taste and civility in the general public. But the visual culture that emerged from these exhibitions was focused predominantly on local or British landscape and genre. Similarly, in the collection established for Cape Town's permanent gallery, later the national gallery, there was very little grand narrative art or art of the past characteristic of other national galleries. A culture of informality prevailed instead. It is argued that the commitment to nature painting in the Cape and elsewhere in South Africa stemmed from an indifference or antipathy to the metropolitan culture on which major international art galleries were based, compromising the professionalism and status of these local art institutions. A comparative analysis of some of the galleries of Australia, the Cape's colonial rival, reveals that they received far greater support and demonstrated far greater professionalism than their South African counterparts. Notes, ref., sum. [Journal abstract]