Marilyn Martin, independent writer and curator, honorary research associate, University of Cape Town

The course is inspired by Martin’s book, Between Dreams and Realities – a History of the South African National Gallery, 1871–2017, which tells the story of South Africa’s pre-eminent art museum and revisits important exhibitions, events and forgotten controversies. Like the book, the course will consider the aspirations and role of civil society in creating and maintaining a national institution for the common good. Concurrently long-standing government neglect of the museum will be examined. The richly illustrated narrative begins in 1871 with a bequest of forty-five paintings and money for the establishment of a public art gallery in Cape Town. It ends in 2019, a time of extraordinary changes in South Africa’s art and museum sectors. The course aims to revive interest in public art museums in general and the national art museum in particular.



1. 1871–1989: from colonialism to the end of apartheid and the role of civil society, directors, governing bodies and government

2. 1990–2020: from facing transformation to fundamental changes in the South African art and museum ecosystem


Recommended reading

Martin, M. 2019. Between Dreams and Realities – a History of the South African National Gallery. Noordhoek Western Cape: Print Matters Heritage.



Date: Monday 6–Tuesday 7 January
Time: 1.00 pm
COURSE FEES: Full R236 Staff & Students R118
Venue: LT3 Kramer Law Building UCT