The business of art

2014-02-20 00:00

HOURS of painstaking work has renewed the stunning Andrew Verster ­designed tapestry that hangs in the ­International Convention Centre (ICC) in Durban.

The brightly coloured 120-square metre work, woven by Marguerite Stephens from hand dyed mohair 16 years ago, is one of many permanent works at the centre to be given a new lease on life by tapestry conservator Neil Stuart-Harris, who had to work at a height of eight metres from the ground to achieve the new bright look.

“The tapestry is one of the foundation works in the ICC collection,” said Carol Brown, from Durban-based Curate.A.Space, which is managing the ICC art project.

“It is in excellent condition, but the recent vacuuming by Neil, who is a specialist textile conservator, has really brought out its vivid colours and the work he has done will help us to conserve this piece for the future.”

Stuart-Harris — well-known to the Durban theatre community for his costume designs for shows like My Fair Lady at the Playhouse and KickstArt Theatre Company’s The Ladykillers — has cleaned the Peace Quilt, which hangs in the concourse of the ICC.

Also hard at work at the ICC is ceramics restorer Joanna Roberts, who has been cleaning and restoring massive ceramic frames made by Durban-born Jeremy Wafer, now an associate professor at Wits University.

The frames enclose vibrant black and white prints made by Gabisile Nkosi at Caversham in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands.

The tapestry, quilts, prints and ceramic frames, together with a lion sculpture by Carl Roberts, an installation piece by Vaughn Sadie, metal figures made by Marco Cianfanelli — the man who created the sculpture at the Mandela Capture Site near Howick — and the many photographs of the great and the good who have performed at or appeared at the ICC, form part of its permanent collection.

“The Durban ICC is fortunate to have a number of incredible artworks by both internationally acclaimed and lesser known artists,” said Julie-May Ellingson, the ICC’s chief executive officer.

“Over the years thousands of delegates have had an opportunity to experience these artworks and get an understanding of the amazing talent we have in our country.

“As the ICC we believe it is our responsibility to ensure that these artworks are protected and maintained to the highest standards.

“The current restoration work is being undertaken by highly competent specialists and is part of an ongoing art initiative to not only ensure we maintain our existing collection, but also at expanding this collection in the future.”

Speaking to The Witness about the project, Brown said, “There are roughly 60 works in the public areas of the ICC. These are permanently on show … The majority of the works were bought to coincide with the opening of the ICC [in August 1997].

“Then, when the ICC Arena was built [in 2007], several new works were installed.

“The first part of the project is to bring the existing collection into good condition. Most of the works have been in situ for the past 16 years and we now consider it is time to restore them. We are also planning to catalogue all the works, so that we have a museum-type record of everything in the building.”

Brown added that as part of the project they were also considering commissioning new works for the ICC.

“There are large expanses of the ICC which are just blank walls, so one of the things we will be doing in this project is to establish new spaces for artworks to be placed,” she said.

To find these new works of art, the ICC plans to call for proposals for new works; and to host courses on the business of art to help artists who want to get involved in the project.

The ICC is also considering hosting temporary exhibitions to coincide with conferences and other events at the venue.

Brown said the art project is expected to take the “better part of a year” to complete.

THE Peace Quilt, which hangs in the concourse of the ICC, represents a unique international quilting project.

The quilt was first exhibited in 1996 at the Durban City Hall as part of the South African National Quilt Festival held in Durban. It then travelled throughout South Africa and also to international quilting conventions in America, the United Kingdom and Austria, sponsored by the Department of Arts, Culture, Science and Technology.

The idea came from Odette Tolksdorf, and was put into action by the Quilt Festival committee.

Requests were sent out world-wide for fabric “bricks”, using blue and white colours, with peace as the theme and signed with the maker’s name and country of origin. The response was astounding — almost 800 blocks were received from 29 countries.

The Grassroots Quilters Guild of Westville sewed the blocks into a “wall of peace” consisting of 26 panels. Each panel had a dark-blue denim front and a backing of “isishwe-shwe”, a blue and white South African fabric with a long and popular tradition in South Africa. — Supplied

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