Author explores gallery’s history in new book

Author Anna Tietze with Thursday Club founder, Sandy Bailey.

Scandal, politics and budgetary challenges are a few of the issues covered in a Wynberg culture and art historian’s book.

Anna Tietze was the guest speaker at the Thursday Club at Buitenverwachting Restaurant on October 12.

She authored A History of the Iziko South African National Gallery, and is a lecturer at the Michaelis School of Fine Art.

A sign of the times, she says many of her students have never been to the National Gallery.

Ms Tietze said Iziko has always struggled on a tiny budget compared to the recently opened Zeitz MOCAA.

Thursday Club founder Sandy Bailey said the book was a scholarly work which could have been as dry as the dust behind long- hanging old pictures, but it was not. It is written in plain English and brings to life the arguments and battles over what should and should not be exhibited.

Ms Tietze has broken the history of the National Gallery into periods served by each director, some of them scandalous, including protest art and selling donated work.

She also looks at the way forward and provides ideas of how to do this – at collecting policies, and how they conceive of exhibitions.

The national gallery was opened in 1930 and changed name around 2000, amalgamating all institutions. Iziko means “hearth”, the idea being to sit around a hearth and discuss heritage.

The book considers questions of artistic and cultural identity, from the late 19th century to the present day. It is a valuable book because to date, there has been no large-scale historical inquiry into the Iziko Museums. The absence of such a history is a serious gap in the literature, which this study aims to fill.

The book is not only historically important but is beautiful, with full colour images. The cover has an illustration by Mary Sibande: The Reign (2010) from the Iziko South African National Gallery.

For more information about the Thursday Club, call Sandy Bailey at 021 685 8016.