City Hall Becomes Art Space

With just weeks to go, work is already underway at the Cape Town City Hall as the Africa Centre’s Spier Contemporary 2010 art biennale prepares to reveal a two month long exhibition of over 132 art works from across South Africa.

The exhibition also forms part of a competition in which R1.2 million in prize money and seven international artist-in-residency opportunities will be awarded.

Johannesburg-based architect, Nabeel Essa, has been appointed to transform the faded Edwardian décor of the City Hall into an edgy, contemporary art space. Essa is using colour to ‘shock’ the faded backdrop of the unused City Hall space into a bold art space that distinguishes itself from the traditional white cube space.

As the use of paint is extensive, the project was extremely grateful for the assistance of Plascon Paints who sponsored all the paint for the project, even going as far as to mix a Pantone colour for the signature Spier Contemporary orange.

Spier Contemporary Project Manager, Farzanah Badsha, said that one of the primary motivations for choosing the City Hall as a venue was accessibility. Close to major taxi, bus and train routes the location reflected the Spier Contemporary’s intention to open up art and grow new art audiences.

A secondary dimension to the venue is the City Hall’s historical significance as both a colonial symbol and the site of Nelson Mandela’s release speech. This makes for an interesting interaction between opposing themes; political domination and political reform, transformation and ownership, anticipation and disappointment, the old and the new, society then and society now.

The Spier Contemporary 2010 winners will be announced on 13 March and the exhibition opens to the public on Sunday, 14 March 2010.