Artology: The University of Pretoria Museums launch new curated art book

Posted on April 20, 2023

… The study of art or an object as art. A branch of knowledge or research strategy applied to curatorship in a university museum context, including practical and theoretical perspectives. A variety of responses and methods to art-making, physical or visceral experiences. 

The University of Pretoria (UP) Museums have produced one of the significant art publications for 2023. The UP Museums designed, produced, and presented Artology, a relatively novel concept that has not been included in any dictionaries, as both an exhibition and, most recently, a daring new art book. This expensive coffee table book with the working title Artology gives viewers a curated overview of some iconic works of art from the Palaeolithic, the Classical, the Historical, the Twentieth Century, and the Contemporary periods. The best collection of paintings, sculptures, ceramics, artifacts, and other items from the University of Pretoria's archives and permanent collections are shown in this book beautifully.

A curatorial delight and visual feast, the book Artology features more than 300 items from the museum's enormous 20, 000-piece holdings and archives. The book focuses on the 100-year history of collecting, beginning in 1922 with the university's first donation of a lithograph by JH Pierneef (1886–1957), one of the greatest old South African masters, and concluding in 2022 with the latest UP Museums' acquisition of the University of Pretoria's first augmented reality (AR) painting.

When the University was still the Transvaal University College in 1910 (or TUKS), just emerged after World War One and at a time when research and repositioning in South Africa were at their peak, the book covers the beginnings of a permanent collection that first started in 1922 and led to the present. The collection was well underway by the time the autonomous University of Pretoria was founded in 1930. In most cases, acquisitions are achieved by outright purchases, donations, requests, fieldwork, or long-term loans. The Artology book is a revelation when it comes to knowledge about curatorial data, provenance, legitimate title, and what is by legal title in a museum collection at a university. This excellent book makes a great addition to anyone's bookcase and is sure to please.

The book serves as an illustration for the study of art and the idea that all things in a university museum context, regardless of their origins in time, culture, or nation, are works of art. Collections are given to museums and they are obligated to maintain them. In contrast, museums also have a social duty to grant access to, conduct research on, and promote any forms of collections with the general public and the international community. The book elucidates how university museums fill in narrative, identity, and institutional memory gaps by recording both the past and the present. This includes not only relegating museum collections to the past but including contemporary artworks and the most recent acquisitions, to show how a fully-fledged 21st-century university museum is dedicated to curating and conserving its collections. The University of Pretoria Museums continues to make an impact on society a hundred years on and in service of the community, as the book stands as testimony to their drive, consistency, and success. Direct orders for the Artology book can be made to: [email protected] or Whatsapp at +27 68 236 4808

- Author Dr. Sian Tiley-Nel

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