The sod-turning ceremony for the building of the Javett Art Centre (Javett-UP) at the University of Pretoria (UP) on the Hatfield and South campuses, to be completed in 2018, took place in January 2017. The Centre is being built by the University thanks to a substantial donation by the Javett Foundation.
The idea is to establish Africa's foremost art gallery right here in the City of Tshwane to exhibit art of the highest quality on a permanent basis, with a specific focus on the art of Africa. The Javett-UP will house the Javett Foundation's seminal collection of 20th-century South African art; the iconic Mapungubwe collection, of which UP is the custodian; selected pieces from the University's various collections; as well as the Centre's own curated and visiting collections.
UP has a number of art collections, collections of artefacts of international artistic and archaeological significance, and an exceptional collection of ceramics. These collections grow annually through donations or purchases by the University's art committee.
At the sod-turning event, the Vice-Chancellor and Principal of UP, Prof Cheryl de la Rey, said that the University had first recognised the need for an art centre some ten years ago. The idea was passionately championed by Prof Antony Melck, a former member of the UP Executive, now retired. It came to fruition when Prof Melck was approached by the late Mr Stephen Welz, a well-known South African art expert, on behalf of the Javett Foundation, with a proposal to establish what would become the Javett-UP.
Significant progress has been made in the past three years. After obtaining the necessary approvals from the City of Tshwane, construction of the building complex started in the second half of 2016.
The Javett-UP will champion South African and African art and culture, alongside international works, in an environment characterised by research, study and exploration. Temporary exhibitions will be curated in support of these aims. The Mapungubwe collection will be housed in a purpose-designed gallery, which will guarantee an African perspective.
The University and the Javett Foundation share a firm belief in the value of the arts for society in general, and for education in particular, which underlies their commitment to this project. Apart from the large capital donation for the construction of the complex, the Javett Foundation will make further annual donations over ten years to assist with operating costs and for the establishment of an endowment fund for the Centre. The Javett-UP will be run and managed by an independent trust, the recently established Arts Centre Foundation (ACF), to which the University appoints trustees. The ACF appointed Mr Christopher Till, currently Director of the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg, as the Director of the Javett-UP, in a part-time capacity pending completion of the building.
The Javett-UP has the dual aim of enhancing academic programmes presented at UP pertaining to the arts, culture and heritage studies, and academic departments and disciplines that make use of these collections in teaching and research, and of promoting appreciation of the arts, not only within the University community, but also among the wider South African and African community.
The Javett-UP will also promote new developments in conservation and storage methods. With funding from the Andrew W Mellon Foundation, the University will be the first in the country to develop a postgraduate Arts Conservation course, utilising the Javett-UP's facilities.
A number of academic departments and disciplines in the Faculty of Humanities benefit from the existing art and archaeological collections, which are used for teaching and research purposes. These include the departments of Visual Arts, Archaeology, Anthropology, Historical and Heritage Studies. The exhibition of the collections will contribute to the creation of a rich learning environment for students and a cultural haven for all people living in the City of Tshwane.
Focusing on research, the Javett-UP will provide extensive and rich materials in a research-friendly environment, not only to staff and students of UP, but to the wider national and international arts community. Another important focus of the Javett-UP will be engagement with the community through well-developed educational outreach programmes and school visits.
The Javett-UP building complex will be truly unique. A bridge gallery will span Lynnwood Road to connect the main building on UP's South Campus with an Art Square and a student gallery on the Hatfield Campus. The latter will arise at the southernmost point of the historic Tukkie Avenue, completing the University's budding arts precinct.
The arts precinct will also be enhanced by a Rand Merchant Bank (RMB) THINK Bench, to be placed in the vicinity of Tukkie Avenue in an area frequented by students. UP is the first educational institution selected by RMB to receive this donation. In 2013, RMB launched the THINK Bench initiative in collaboration with sculptor Louis Olivier at the Workhorse Bronze Foundry. The brief was to conceptualise, create and roll out a limited edition of seven significant 13-metre-long outdoor benches, classified as functional public art. Once installed, the THINK Bench is sure to become a distinctive campus landmark.
The Javett-UP Art Centre was also recently nominated for the St Gobain Architectural Award. Launched by founder Saint-Gobain, the awards aim to recognise and reward worthy projects from across the African continent, with one overall winner garnering a $10 000 grand prize.
Prof Theo van Wyk, Director of UP Arts, Prof Vasu Reddy, Dean of the Faculty of Humanities, Messrs Christopher Till, Director of the Javett-UP and Daniel Mosako, Curator of the UP Sculpture Collections