Art in the City




In a dazzling career move, Cape Town’s Grain Silo, located on the Knuckle on the South Arm of the harbour, has gone from playing a pivotal role in the handling of grain, for farmers of the Western Cape, to showcasing Cape Town’s largest outdoor art installation. No stranger to the record books, the Silo at the time of its construction in 1924 was South Africa’s tallest Building.

The first phase of the Cell C, “Art in the City” project began in Johannesburg were patron of the arts Cell C, in support of the Johannesburg inner city regeneration drive,  commissioned 35 art works by local artists, which were mounted on buildings in the city centre, together with those created by the finalists in the Johannesburg Art City Competition. The result has turned  Johannesburg into the largest outdoor gallery in the world.

As part of a nation wide campaign, which brings art out of its closet, and into the full view of the public, photographer Dale Yudelman, and fine artist Arlene Amaler-Raviv, were commissioned for the second phase of the project called “Mother City Art Project” which saw the emphasis shift from regeneration to tourism. Project manager for the art in the city initiative Lesley Perkes says, that “the artists Yudelman and Amaler-Raviv where chosen because their unique collaboration is rare and their work world class.”

The three artworks marry the genres of photographic and painted images. They add a new perspective to everyday life on the streets, with a marked simplicity; portraying a common reality and elevating that which is perceived as ordinary to extraordinary. 

By accentuating characteristics intrinsic to South African culture and heritage; the images form part of a growing new social identity. Cape Town’s grain silo showcases images which capture the essence of our local social countenance, holding up a provocative mirror which reflects elements of both pride and humbleness, celebrating and captivating our spirit.

Playing a welcome note on a tuba, to an unseen audience, on a rock out to sea, with four children playing in the background, the image titled ‘I tune you’ faces onto the local and international community at the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront.  Facing Signal Hill, the image ‘Mother City’ reveals a resilient mother of Africa, a woman ‘iconic’ in stature, her head in the clouds, a city highway at her feet, as she easily carries a heavy load on her head. ‘Arrival’ the image facing the city, depicts a trolley heaped with holiday luggage, the trolley’s wheels have touched down on the beach, and below it is one of the Cape’s treasures – its glistening coastline.

Perkes believes that “the artworks will give the city confidence in the ability of artists to enhance the environments aesthetic appeal and hopes the project will see a similar approach to regeneration through art in Cape Town’s most impoverished places. ”Long a lobbyist for art to lose its elitist flavour, she says that “public art has a unique regenerative energy. It’s a tangible, immediate, popular way of getting societies to appreciate the value of the arts. The artworks had to stand proud in international circles, because the sponsor wanted to show support for Cape Town’s drive to promote itself as a world renowned tourist mecca. Getting permission to mount such large visual images in a public place in Cape Town was something of a breakthrough, as the city’s guardians are extremely protective of its famous natural beauty.

Cell C’s CEO, Talaat Laham says: We’re grateful to the local authorities for allowing us to demonstrate that the life on the streets of Cape Town is as much a part of what makes the city special as its beautiful mountain and beaches.”

Clearly this installation has been a united effort of several individuals, who have worked alongside South Africa’s newest service provider. The Tractor Group in conjunction with Tractor Outdoor were largely responsible for securing the site and installing the art works each measuring 28 metres x 17 metres. High access specialists where hired to scale the walls and complete the installation. Typically Cape Town, its windy conditions conspired to extend the positioning of the artworks for several days. 

Amaler-Raviv and Yudelman feel excited and privileged that their art will be seen by people from all walks of life and hope that the historical value of the Silo will be highlighted by the current installation. The most challenging aspect of the project says Amaler-Raviv “was to be able to conceptualize the art works on such a large scale, and to ensure that they where visible from a distance as well as at close range.”

Successful in their own right Yudelman and Amaler-Raviv have enjoyed illustrious solo careers. Amaler-Raviv, has a BA degree in fine arts, and has held exhibitions as far a field as London and New York. Yudelman was introduced to photography at an early age by his father, and has since won numerous photographic awards. His early career as a photojournalist took him to London where he then moved to Los Angeles, and worked for magazines, design studios, and advertising agencies for ten years.

Cape Town based Amaler-Raviv and Yudelman have had three exhibitions and several corporate and private commissions since the start of their five year collaboration. Their most recent exhibition titled “Livestock” was exhibited at the 8th Havana Biennale in Cuba last year, where it will move to Oslo – Norway to be part of an extended exhibition of the Cuban Biennale from the 6th of February till the 2nd May 2004, and will then return to Cape Town.

Yudelman’s latest images from a series entitled ‘Reality Bytes’ are on view at the off-beat venue ‘Jo’burg’, in Long Street Cape Town - A selection from this series were recently exhibited at ‘Paris Photo’ in France. Amaler-Raviv is in the process of completing a solo exhibition to be held at the Association For Visual Arts, in Church street Cape Town, starting on the 8th of March this year.

The next phase of the “Art In The City” initiative has moved to Durban where it started at the beginning of this year. It is projects of this nature that will highlight our cultural heritage, and continue to make contemporary art available to the people of our country and its visitors. There seems to be a clear synergy between art and business, with benefits that are far reaching for both the community and the artists themselves. There is an African Renaissance visible on our horizon; this is one way of making sure that we all get to see it.

© Simone Tredoux – Leadership Magazine