2019 is already brimming with change for the University of Pretoria. Among the expected highlights for this year is the opening of the Javett-UP Art Centre (Javett-UP). Not only will this new addition to Pretoria destinations be a visual and architectural masterpiece, but the complex is also one of the largest art construction projects in the region, and one of the largest philanthropic ventures aimed at promoting the arts and cultural heritage in South Africa.
As things stand, the front entrance of the Javett-UP is taking shape, and the bridge gallery is nearing completion. Wooden floors have been laid by master craftsmen, and light fittings have already been installed in some of the gallery spaces.
When the centre opens its doors to the public this year, Irma Stern's ‘Pink House’ as well as ‘Election 94’ by Willie Bester will form part of the exhibitions. The gallery will also house a selection of the Mapungubwe gold.
Besides the permanent collections (which include the Javett Foundation’s collection of 20th-century SA art and the Mapungubwe Gold Collection), the Javett-UP’s own curated temporary exhibitions as well as visiting local and international exhibitions representing the entire spectrum of the art of Africa will be shown.
The centre was made possible by a generous donation from the Javett Foundation, established in 2013 to support philanthropic activities in line with the Javett family’s interest in education and skills development, and their commitment to the arts.
The centre was designed by Mathews and Associates Architects and is destined to become a focal point for the art of Africa. It will consist of various indoor exhibition spaces, including a bridge gallery spanning Lynnwood Road, a restaurant, a 117-seat auditorium, and outdoor exhibition venues. There will also be a customised studio for the study of preventive conservation and preservation of cultural heritage resources. The bridge gallery descends into an art square and student gallery on the Hatfield Campus at the south end of historic Tukkie Laan.
The centre will not only be a hub for the arts, but also serve as major driver of transdisciplinary research development between the Humanities and the rest of the University, providing a unique resource for academics, researchers, students and learners.
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 offer a Master’s in Social Science programme focusing on Tangible Heritage Conservation, with the first cohort enrolled for this year.
The complex, which is set to become an iconic feature on the Tshwane landscape, will mount exhibitions supporting research projects across disciplines and welcome visiting academics and artists-in-residence from Africa and beyond. The student gallery that forms part of the complex will feature student exhibitions in visual arts, architecture and other disciplines, and is also suitable for science and career fairs and similar events.
On completion, design elements will include a graphic representation of Shweshwe cloth patterning on the sides of the bridge gallery and a sculptural ‘vault’ housing the Mapungubwe collection. The ‘vault’ references the Mapungubwe mountain and will feature recesses on the concrete surfaces moulded with custom-formed shuttering.