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Tatham Art Gallery Articles

from the Tatham Art Gallery Newsletter 1986 No 2

Home > Articles > Housing the Cape Town Triennial

Curator's Notes

Housing the Cape Town Triennial

The infuriating inadequacy of the Tatham Art Gallery's accomodation on the 2nd floor of the City Hall is a constant nightmare to the staff. Every new project undertaken demands another set of solutions on how to overcome the gradient of the stairs, shortage of space, financial stringencies, lack of manual labour, non-existence of public lavatories, etc. etc.

The housing of the Cape Town Triennial exhibition however is certainly the most major exhibition problem that we've ever had to face. As the most prestigious contemporary South African art exhibition, it is also the largest. The Tatham staff faced the prospect of removing the entire permanent collection to display the Triennial. Safe storage of the paintings and sculptures which were removed could not be found so the most feasible alternative mooted at a staff meeting was the use of the derelict Old Supreme Court. This building can only be described as a masochist renovator's paradise. The ceilings are falling in, walls are peeling. Piles of pigeon guano cover four score years and ten of evil-smelling dust and filth which in turn hide termite-riddled floor boards.

Five daunted staff members surveyed the catastrophe; four unanimously delegated the design technician the task of assessing the feasibility of washing, sweeping, dusting, scraping, scrubbing, sanding and painting the interior on a non-esistent budget.

The Government's Unemployment Scheme and a student assistant on rock-bottom wages was provided as the ingenious solution. As this is being written forty women, some with hankerchiefs over their noses and improvised cleaning equipment have begun the cosmetic transformation of the neglected and decaying interior. Demented, petrified pigeons circle frantically trying to dodge flailing brooms and viciously-aimed missiles in an attempt to get them to leave by a broken window in the light lantern and put the fear, of whatever birdies fear, into them so they won't return.

The municipal stores have been depleted of household detergent, window cleaner and scrubbing brushes and the Corporation's Estates Department has been temporarily relieved of a vehicle so that paintbrushes, sandpaper and buckets can be collected from the cheapest tenderer.

Lighting for the dingy shell posed an insurmountable problem. After several unsuccessful attempts to borrow lighting the City Council responded by reallocating funds to allow thirty metres of track and 100 spot lights to be purchased.

By the opening night we believe that we're going to offer both the public and ourselves something to celebrate : a bonanza art exhibition visiting Pietermaritzburg for the first time and a worth-while vistory when we thought we were sunk.

Lorna Ferguson

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Johansson collectionThe Tatham Art Gallery holds an Art Collection that contains significant British and French artworks dating back to the 18th century. Its South-African art collection is focused on, but not exclusive to, the art of KwaZulu-Natal.


ImageThe Tatham Art Gallery hosts a range of Art Exhibitions. These include traveling and researched exhibitions as well as exhibitions initiated by the Gallery and compiled from the collection.


A selection of current and archival articles from the Tatham Art Gallery. These articles provide a historical and contemporary perspective on the Gallery and the visual arts in KwaZulu-Natal.

Art Gallery Shop

ImageThe Tatham Art Gallery shop stocks high quality works by local crafters. It is an ideal place to find unique presents and original collectables.