The Iziko National Gallery moves towards the culmination of ‘Breaking Down The Walls’ with the showcase of work by two artists-in-residence and the opening of a new show

· The Liberman Doors In Context, a fresh look at the historic doors in the Gallery’s Atrium, curated by Hayden Proud

· 2pm – Walkabout with Artist-in-Residence Jacques Viljoen and curator Andrew Lamprecht

· Launch of Thabo Makhetha’s Phetoho

Breaking Down The Walls, Iziko National Gallery’s landmark exhibition showcasing 150 years of the Iziko collection, is fast drawing to a close, and with it the showcasing of of artists’ residencies and a re-examination of the iconic Liberman Doors.

It has been almost thirty years since The National Gallery hosted artist’s residencies within its walls, beginning with Francine Scialom Greenblatt in 1989Now, as part of Breaking Down The Walls”, the Gallery has included artists-in-residence as part of the current exhibition.

Curator Andrew Lamprecht said, “It’s hard to believe that almost a year has passed since the exhibition opened and we have seen many new and familiar faces visiting the Gallery and engaging with a wide variety of art that we hold in trust for all South Africans. The exhibition has been an opportunity to reflect on what we have, what we still need to achieve and what a gallery can mean in the contemporary environment. It has been particularly heartening to see how many school learners have been able to visit the exhibition and it is hoped that this new generation will take renewed interest in the collection.”

Thabo Mkhetha – multimedia artist and designer

Phetoho is a small exhibition within “Breaking Down the Walls” showcasing three new garments by fashion designer and cultural ambassador Thabo Mkhetha in the context of historic tapestries produced by women artists at Rorke’s Drift in the 1970s. Phetoho is a Sotho word indicating a shifting or unfolding and also evokes the figure of a shapeshifter. Since Africa Day, 25 May 2023, Mkhetha has been involved in several projects as part of her residency and already presented a fashion show and seen the inclusion of a 3-D augmented reality “virtual” sculpture in the exhibition. Her residency will culminate with a visually spectacular performance on Heritage Day, 24 September.

Thabo’s fashion designs are based on original and ground-breaking research conducted since 2009 into the 150 years of history and culture of Basotho blankets. Thus, it is most suitable that she join “Breaking Down the Walls”, which reflects on 150 years of art collecting at Iziko. As Iziko’s CEO, Ms Rooksana Omar noted at the launch of her residency “Thabo is much more than a fashion designer who produces garments: she is a sustainability activist, whose creations fly in the face of a ‘throw away’ culture for high fashion as each outfit can be worn in over a dozen new ways, allowing new variations each time they put on. She is an artist who positions her creations within a burgeoning arena where the boundaries between art and adornment – rightfully – are merging and as new technologies make for endless possibilities.”

Jacques Viljoen – painter

A large portion of the Iziko Collection includes nearly priceless historical paintings from all across the world. To help connect today’s public to an artistic practice that goes back centuries, The Curator of Historical Painting, Andrew Lamprecht invited contemporary realist painter Jacques Viljoen to make master copies and other works on site. For almost a year, Viljoen painstakingly copied works in the gallery, while engaging with the public.

During his hours spent working in the gallery he became interested in the different ways that people reacted to specific works within the gallery, then set about painting portraits of people in the gallery, interacting with work in some way. In his own work, Viljoen works exclusively from life, in oils and often out in the mountains and streets of Cape Town – what is known as ‘en plein air’.

The seminal work completed during the residency was “Portrait of Fatima February at The Iziko National Museum” – a life-size portrait of an esteemed artist, art historian, and conservator who has been with Iziko Museums of South Africa for over 40 years – was completed over 5 sessions in front of a large-scale rock art reproduction. This painting was selected as one of the top 40 finalists in this year’s South African Portrait Awards and images will be made available to the public after the 1st of September and will be available to view at Rust-en-Vrede gallery from September 2nd.

The rest of Viljoen’s work can be seen as part of “Breaking Down the Walls at Iziko National Gallery”, displayed alongside paintings and spaces that have been copied or referenced in his work. The artist will be giving a public walkabout alongside Andrew Lamprecht at 2 p.m. on 24 August.

The Liberman Doors In Context

Former Curator of Historical Paintings and Sculpture, Hayden Proud has re-examined the iconic Liberman Doors and other fixed works that form part of the fabric of the South African National Gallery.

The exhibition works with sculptural works of art from the permanent collections that have long been in fixed positions, but which will, for the first time, be augmented with illustrated interpretative text panels.

A new emphasis will be placed on the previously unacknowledged importance of Herbert Meyerowitz’s wife Eva as a co-author/sculptor of the Liberman Memorial Door, as well as her role in the Odeon Cinema reliefs and other reliefs in the Gallery building. The texts will also elucidate technical aspects of relief work in sculpture, both in carving and in modelling.

The narratives of the Liberman Memorial Door, as well as those of the overdoor panels throughout the Gallery prompt thought and debate on such issues as slavery, displacement, migration and seeking refuge from persecution, which are all interwoven with scenes from Cape colonial life, often depicted with the subversive eye of the artist, especially in the case of Herbert Meyerowtiz.

In addition, new labels will be provided for existing free-standing sculptures in the Atrium which include braille text.

Breaking Down The Walls to continue until 30 September 2023.

Copy after J. H. Pierneef, Golden Gate, 1951 | 50cm x 40cm Oil on Linen 2023


Copy after James Jebusa Shannon, Girl With the Purple Stocking, 1883 | 50cm x 60m Oil on Linen 2022


Remembering Futures Past (after Dame Laura Knight, Flying The Kite, 1910) | 60cm x 40cm Oil on Linen 2023


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