Nokuthula Khanyile
Former Tatham Art Gallery director Brendan Bell retired at the end of September.

Momentous artworks collected over the years hang in a derelict building as continuous neglect threatens to rob Pietermaritzburg of one of its most treasured sites.

This is the concern expressed by art connoisseur and recently retired Tatham Art Gallery director Brendan Bell, in his recent interview with Weekend Witness.

Bell could not suppress his dejection as he pointed out how Msunduzi Municipality has over the years failed to maintain the gallery building and other surrounding historical buildings in the city that belong to it.

“It has always been a battle to try to communicate the value and importance of the art museum. It is simply not seen as a priority,” he said.

“The roof of this building needs constant maintenance. Over time, with the rain and the heat, the sunbaked bricks have started crumbling and they need to be replaced.

“This is a national monument building and year after year we didn’t get funds.”

“Political will is diverting funds elsewhere and the gallery is not the only part of the municipality that is affected,” he added.

Bell, who retired at the end of September, was at the helm of the Tatham Art Gallery, one of seven major art museums in South Africa.

“The future is anybody’s guess. There’s an underlying sadness at the thought of what could possibly happen, which I’ve seen at other institutions similar to this,” said Bell reflecting on his many years’ service to the gallery.

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