Public Art in Joburg – the West Side Story Part 1

Taking a walk in Joburg’s inner-city city may just surprise you for all the right reasons… [The brilliant photos are by Wesley Poon]

Ask anyone who lives here to describe the city of Joburg and they rarely extol its beauty. Mostly they point out it’s a city without a sea and until the Nelson Mandela Bridge it was a city without any remarkable landmarks that aren’t communication towers or apartment blocks. And those are the polite remarks.

Over the past five years, it’s a little known fact that the city has installed an impressive and growing number of public artworks – at last count at more than 50 sites. In 2006 a strategy was put in place to use public art as a way of fulfilling a range of Joburg’s developing needs. It called for a public art levy, a common global practice, that would devote up to one percent of the construction budget on major city building projects to this end. This was implemented by the Johannesburg Development Agency at a time when the city has been undergoing something of a boom, and it will continue.

The unofficial public art in the city - District 9

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Tate Modern’s Chris Dercon at Joburg Art Fair

There was something disturbing about listening to Tate Modern’s Chris Dercon at the FNB Joburg Art Fair this weekend. Dercon’s talk was titled “Audiences: How much do we really care?”. It’s a good question, and one that requires an urgent response in a world where every medium, be it visual arts or newspapers and everything in between is being challenged by an economy ruled by a surplus of information and a deficit of attention.

Tate Modern Director Chris Dercon, photo from vintageyoga.typepad.com (who clearly got it from somewhere else)

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It’s the Joburg Art Fair. Head for Sandton

It’s the Art Fair. It’s the Art Fair. I don’t usually blog pre- an event, preferring to experience it for myself before I tell anyone it’s worth doing. But the FNB Joburg Art Fair is a sure thing. Opening night (by invitation only) happens tomorrow and then from Friday morning until Sunday afternoon there’s art and more art, framed and named, performances, appearances, talks of all sorts and lots of of other things in between.

Mikhael Subotzky & Patrick Waterhouse, Blue Ponte / Red Ponte I – IX, 2011

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