The Recast exhibition poses questions about relevance in relics and about what room, if any, there is in modern-day South Africa to include a reference point for art history rooted in western ideals or what’s embodied in the sculptures: an ode to classical Greek traditions as a pinnacle of human civilisation. By UFRIEDA HO.

There are many ways to die if you’re a piece of art: turned to dust in a storeroom, killed off by capricious whim, or suffocated to death by a historical framing.

It sums up one part of the story of 25 plaster casts of classical Greek sculptures owned by the University of Johannesburg. It’s one of the most intact collections of its kind in South Africa but has remained hidden for over 40 years in the university’s obscured corners and spaces in the margins.

Now they’ve been dusted off and gathered together in the atrium of the FADA (Faculty of Arts, Design and Architecture). They stand as striking treasures. Among them is the full-size cast of the headless but winged and strident Nike of Samothrace (the original stands in the Louvre) and the armless Venus De Milo with its curved torso and plaster draping only just covering her behind. There are also reliefs and statues of nude male youths, typical of the archaic Greek period. But, they’re gathered for more than mere display. Read more