Javett-UP, home to the art of Africa, opens

Posted on September 13, 2019

The Javett Art Centre at the University of Pretoria (Javett-UP) opens officially on Heritage Day, 24 September, with three groundbreaking exhibitions: a collection of iconic works of South African art; the Javett Family Collection of modern art; and an exhibition of significant pieces from the Mapungubwe Gold collection.

A partnership between the Javett Foundation and the University of Pretoria (UP), the Javett-UP seeks to engage students and the public with the creativity and diversity of local and international art and artists. It is an inspirational space where exhibitions, events and performances will enrich society.

Professor Tawana Kupe, Vice-Chancellor and Principal of UP, said the centre aims to support and enhance UP’s academic programmes relating to the arts that make use of these collections in teaching and research. He said it also promotes appreciation of the arts while making the arts accessible to the wider South African and African community.

“We believe this centre, which will celebrate South African artists, will assist us in our mission of providing quality higher education to our students,” he said.

Before anything else, says director Christopher Till, Javett-UP is a place for people. It’s a place where they can learn about how Africa’s artists express the myriad, complex narratives of the continent and contribute to conversations about Africa’s past, present and future.

“The official opening of Javett-UP is the launch of an extremely valuable and significant resource. It is the culmination of a vision to personalise the art of Africa and to make it more accessible,” says Till.

Javett-UP will open with an exhibition of pieces from the prized modern South African art collection of the Javett family. The art centre was born from the desire to make the works accessible to the public and – in collaboration with UP – the pieces will be a valuable educational resource.

Also on exhibit is a collection of more than 100 works of significant South African art: pieces that have been brought to Javett-UP from public and private collections across South Africa – and the world. This is the first time that all these works will be shown at the same time.

They include Irma Stern’s Arab Priest; Gerard Sekoto’s Song of the Pick, Johannes Phokela’s Chocolat, Alexis Preller’s Red Angel, Zanele Muholi’s Simthembile I, East London; Johannes Maswanganyi’s Jesus is Walking on Water, Jackson Hlungwani’s Crucifix and William Kentridge’s Felix in Exile; among others.

Also on show at the opening is Preller’s Discovery, a formidable work that hasn’t been seen in 30 years. The painting, which was completed in the 1960s, will undergo live conservation in situ as part of the MSocSci in Tangible Heritage Conservation at UP.

The Gold of Africa Gallery at Javett-UP will open with the iconic gold rhino and leopard from the Mapungubwe Gold collection and many other priceless treasures that offer a unique view of the precious metal that runs through the veins of Africa, and the thriving civilisation that served as a sophisticated trading centre from around 1200 to 1300 AD.

“Javett-UP is a place where people can come and relate, through art, to others to learn more about themselves and each other. It’s a place that tells the story of where we come from, where we are now, and why our African-ness matters. This is our Africa, and it’s our art.”

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