Celebrating 60 Years of the Pretoria Art Museum

The Pretoria Art Museum, a longstanding partner of the Sasol New Signatures Art Competition, is set to celebrate its 60th anniversary during Museum Week, coinciding with International Museum Day on 18th May. From Saturday 18 until Sunday 26 May 2024, the museum will host Museum Week, offering free entrance to visitors. This significant milestone will be marked alongside various activities planned by museums across the city of Tshwane.

The 60th anniversary celebration of the Pretoria Art Museum will take place on Monday, 20th May at the museum, featuring a short talk by Dirk Oegema Functional Head: Museum Services on the history of the museum and its contributions to the arts in South Africa at 11h00 and is open to the public. Visitors will also be able to view a dedicated 60th anniversary exhibition feature some of the incredible works within the collection.

The museum's history is deeply intertwined with the growth of art in South Africa. While the Pretoria City Council had been acquiring works of art for its official rooms and offices since the 1920s, it was Lady Michaelis's bequest in 1932 that spurred the council to seriously begin its collection. The collection mainly consists of 17th-century Dutch and Flemish paintings from the Lady Michaelis Collection.

The idea for an Art Museum to house the growing collection took shape in 1954. The decision was made to use the German Pavilion from the 1929 Barcelona International Exhibition, designed by Mies van der Rohe, as inspiration. This vision materialised into the design of the Pretoria Art Museum, a low-slung glass and concrete edifice, and a fine example of the International Style.

Inaugurated on 20 May 1964, the Art Museum focused on establishing a representative collection of South African art. Over the years, the museum has paid attention to contemporary developments in Southern African art, including urban and rural art, traditional art, and new media and techniques, reflecting the historical diversity of South Africa. Today, the collection includes paintings, sculpture, graphics, textiles, photographic art, ceramics, studio glass, and basketry.

The Art Museum regularly hosts exhibitions showcasing the best of South African art from its permanent collection, supplemented by temporary national and international traveling exhibitions. Notably, the museum's collection includes works by numerous Sasol New Signatures alumni and previous judges who have become household names in South Africa’s art world. Names include: Elizabeth Balcomb (2014),  Hanneke Benade (1993), Ingrid Bolton (2012), Guy du Toit (1982),  Frederik Eksteen (1997), Anton Karstel (1991), Henk Serfontein (1992, 1995), Diane Victor (1986).  Judges include:  Mary Sibande, Willie Bester, Helen Sebedi, Willem Boshoff, William Kentridge, Angus Taylor

In celebration of this milestone, Pfunzo Sidogi, Chairperson of Sasol New Signatures, extends best wishes to the museum and looks forward to many more years of partnership. “It is a privilege and inspiration to see so many New Signature alumni represented in the collection, which should serve as motivation for emerging artists to enter the competition”.

As the Pretoria Art Museum marks 60 years of preserving and promoting South African art, its legacy continues to inspire both established and emerging artists, contributing to the rich tapestry of the country's artistic heritage,” concluded Pieter van Heerden, Director of the Association of Arts Pretoria.  “I would like to extend my Association’s heartfelt gratitude to the Pretoria Art Museum for their continued support and would like to wish them a very happy 60th anniversary.”

Sasol, as long-time partner in the Sasol New Signatures Art Competition, has also extended their best wishes to the Pretoria Art Museum on this auspicious occasion.    The 2024 Sasol New Signatures exhibition of finalists and winning works will open to the public on 5 September at the Pretoria Art Museum.