SU’s Sasol Art Museum celebrates 21 years with Laubser exhibition
Glasses were raised for a toast on Wednesday evening (3 October) at a ceremony to celebrate the coming of age of Stellenbosch University’s (SU) Sasol Art Museum. It was also the opening of a retrospective exhibition in the Art Museum of the celebrated South African artist Maggie Laubser’s works – the first exhibition of this extent of her work since 1969.
The exhibition, titled Altyd Lig: Maggie Laubser (1886–1973), will be on show until 19 January 2013. Prof Muller Ballot, who opened the exhibition, is the guest curator.
The Art Museum is housed in the Eben Dönges Centre, formerly known as the Bloemhof School for Girls. It was built in Ryneveld Street in 1907 en used as a school until 1986. In 1979, the building was declared a National Monument. With huge financial support from the petrochemical company Sasol, the centre was refurbished so that it could be used as a cultural centre. The Art Museum opened its doors in 1991, and Prof Ballot was the first director.
Dr Lydia de Waal, the current director of the Art Museum, welcomed guest on Wednesday evening and proposed a toast to celebrate the building’s 21st birthday.
“I do believe that a building can celebrate its coming of age. It means the Art Museum has ripened. But it is also a time for change with respect to the museum’s role at SU, in the community, in the country and as part of the HOPE Project movement at the University,” De Waal said.
The title of the exhibition, Altyd Lig, was the name of Laubser’s house in the Strand. She bequeathed all the paintings in her house, some furniture and household items, as well as the remainder of her estate to the University. She also expressed the wish that these artworks be exhibited in one room as the “Maggie Laubser Collection”.
A year after her death her wishes could be executed when these works were exhibited in the old Lutheran Church in Dorp Street, now known as the SU Art Gallery. It was the University’s first art museum. In 1991 the collection was moved to the newly refurbished Sasol Art Museum.
Prof Ballot said in his speech: “Although Maggie Laubser did achieve a unique place in the history of South African art during her lifetime, her merits and significance as a talented and dedicated artist were not quickly or readily acknowledged in general. This is a story that contains critical low points, as well as exciting high points.”
According to him it was only from the late 1930s that Laubser began receiving recognition in her home country as an artist who possessed an exceptional form of self-expression.
Prof Ballot is currently writing a book on the life and art of Laubser which will be released next year.
Born in Malmesbury, Laubser was one of the first local artists to introduce Expressionism in South Africa. After art studies in South Africa, she went to Europe for further training. Her artworks form part of the permanent collections of various art galleries and companies in South Africa.
Altyd Lig consists of 129 works from the Maggie Laubser Collection, as well as several other endowments and bequests. Thirteen works by her contemporaries – like Hugo Naudé, Ruth Prowse and Irma Stern – from other collections of the University, as well works on loan from Sanlam, the Iziko National Art Museum in Cape Town, the Pretoria Art Museum, and the Antonij Rupert Collection is also exhibited.
A catalogue can be purchased at the Sasol Art Museum at R100. Phone 021 808 3029/3690 for more information. The museum is open on Mondays from 10:00 to 16:30, and Tuesdays to Saturdays from 09:00 to 16:30.