Javett-UP officially opens its doors

Posted on September 27, 2019

The Heritage of African art was celebrated in a spectacular fashion as art lovers gathered for the official opening of the Javett Art Centre at the University of Pretoria (Javett-UP) on September 24.

The hundreds of revellers that gathered on the premises of Javett-UP were treated to good food, enthralling live performances and the opportunity to take turns engaging with what is considered the finest art the continent has to offer.

The centre – a partnership between the Javett Foundation and UP – aims 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.

The building links UP’s Hatfield Campus to the bustling eastern district of the city. The Javett-UP bridge that spans Lynnwood Road and houses the Bridge Gallery has been designed to throw an ever-shifting pattern of light and seshweshwe-like (traditional cotton print) shadow on Lynnwood Road and adjacent walkways.

The centre comprises 13 distinct spaces. This includes an auditorium; the 265m2 Gold of Africa Tower that gives the Mapungubwe Gold Collection a permanent home; a double-volume gallery; a print gallery; a sculpture deck and a restoration studio.

Among the 101 signature works of South African art are the most celebrated, admired and revered pieces ever created by South African artists. They include works by Irma Stern, Gerard Sekoto, Mary Sibande, Pierneef, Walter Battiss, William Kentridge, Lucky Sibiya and others.

Speaking at the opening ceremony, Dr Leigh Bregman, Trustee of the Javett Foundation said the idea of an art centre had been a long time coming. “This venture has long been in planning. Both the University and the foundation had independent plans to build an art centre. These long predated our partnership. From starting seven years ago in October 2012, we are now finally here. Thank you to those that have come on this incredible journey with us,” he said.

He added that the foundation partnered with UP as a part of its longstanding mission to contribute meaningfully to the arts and education.

UP Vice-Chancellor and Principal Professor Tawana Kupe said: “Today is historic for the arts, culture and heritage of our country South Africa, our continent Africa and the world because this Art Centre is now a member of the valuable collection of institutions that hold creative representations of our humanity.”

The centre offers an outstanding resource to students and academics of art history, curation and conservation, while it provides a public space for artists in residence (writers, visual artists, musicians). Residencies will enrich and deepen the University’s project to become, in multiple and substantive ways, a diverse and diversifying institution that values and embraces diversity, said Prof Kupe.

He added that it was “a magnificent building”.

“A wonderful work of art in its own right. It has a physical bridge. It is a bridge in many ways than one. A bridge between two of our campuses, enabling the safe movement of our students between two of our campuses. The bridge has a gallery. In this regard this building is an example of imaginative use of space – aesthetic yet also functional.”

Javett-UP is also a bridge across disciplines in the University. “As an academic bridge it will enable a transdisciplinary intellectual project that illuminates, inspires and enables new forms of creativity and knowledge to emerge,” explained Prof Kupe.

“It is also a bridge linking town and gown, in common parlance, the city and the university or the ivory tower and the generality of the public.”

The centre will bring South Africa and Africa’s art to the world, and the world’s art to South Africa. It will be a vehicle for bridging distances, thereby creating the potential for common understandings of our humanity, said Prof Kupe. “The circulation of art that the centre will facilitate will hopefully contribute to a deepening of knowledge between the people of Africa and their fellow human beings around the world.”

Entry to Javett-UP is free until 29 September 2019.

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