Monuments, memorials and civic statuary are the oldest forms of officially sanctioned public art. The term public art refers to works of art in any media that have been planned and executed with the intention of being sited or staged in the physical public domain. It is often out of doors and accessible to all.
Stellenbosch blazed the trail for outdoor art with local land artist Strijdom van der Merwe's red-wrapped trees in the historic Dorp Street in 2008. Hot on his tracks came Dylan Lewis, also a Stellenbosch artist, who exhibited his bronze sculptures across the centre of the town until 2010.
In 2011 this art out-of-doors was followed by the exhibition 20Stellenbosch: South African Sculpture of the Last Two Decades, which included sculptures mainly from the NIROX Foundation, and which showcased the achievements of contemporary South African sculptors over the last twenty years.
The aim of the Stellenbosch Outdoor Sculpture Trust with Metalwork: Public Art in Stellenbosch II is to build on the success of these shows. Therefore, with the cooperation of the Stellenbosch Municipality, outdoor sculptures are again placed at approved locations in the historic town of Stellenbosch. By placing these works of art in unexpected places out of doors, the Trust aims to create public awareness of the interplay between art, architecture and public spaces, make art accessible to everybody, and bring established artists and new talent to the people. We hope that this will create a familiarity with and an appreciation of art, and also an awareness of heritage conservation in general.
Because some people appear to be afraid or apathetic to visit art museums, many public art initiatives are undertaken all over the world and also in South Africa, for instance in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Stellenbosch, so as to democratise art and aestheticise everyday life.
In an effort to turn Stellenbosch into an art destination, we at the Trust associate ourselves with the aims of Stellenbosch 360, as well as with the town's brand identity and brand attributes. We are delighted to bring the mountain to Mohammed and hope that the sculptures will appeal to locals and tourists.
These outdoor exhibitions do not necessarily always have a theme because their main aim is to show the technical innovation and creativity of South African sculptors and the way they treat contemporary issues. This year's exhibition does have a common denominator, namely metal or steel.
Metal as a medium might have restricted the supply somewhat, and the exhibition Metalwork: Public Art in Stellenbosch II will be smaller than the previous exhibition. Although the images in cold steel might not always be beautiful in an immediately heart-warming way, they are undoubtedly thought provoking, engaging and challenging. However, practical reasons, such as the medium's sturdiness, prompted this choice. For me as a curator (curare means "take care"), vandalism remains a concern, and this was the main reason why we chose metal as a medium. Until we have grasped the psychology of vandalism and found ways to educate potential vandals, we will do everything in our power to prevent damage and theft, and we put our trust in the cooperation of the community and the assistance of our stakeholders to allow these outdoor art projects to succeed.
The metal work exhibition will be concentrated in the centre of the town in order to facilitate guided walkabouts for schools and the general public. These guided tours target motivated visitors who want to learn more about the sculptures on show. The Stellenbosch Association of Arts will again be involved in training voluntary guides, and bookings for tours and small group visits can be made through the Stellenbosch Tourism Information Association.
There are several South African visual art "rock stars", and although we want to bring you these great sculptors, we also want to introduce you to the newcomers. In short, we want you to experience the sublimity, the inventiveness, and, yes, even the zaniness of the works produced by contemporary South African sculptors. If we can realise our dream of presenting an annual outdoor sculpture exhibition with the buy-in of our private, public and corporate supporters, we will see names being made and Stellenbosch starting to rock!
This year's exhibition has been curated from solicited works, but the Stellenbosch Outdoor Sculpture Trust hopes to be swamped by proposals for future exhibitions and to find partners to make it an annual event.
We see public art as having the power to energise and transform the spaces where we live, work and play into more welcoming environments. By placing valuable artworks out of doors, we display our faith in the goodwill of the public. We believe that public art can enhance the quality of life by heightening our sense of place and pride. We hope that you will find it so.