The preservation, restoration, and care of artworks are critical components of celebrating South Africa’s incredibly rich and diverse cultural heritage. Unfortunately, this has been lacking in public collections in South Africa, and numerous important works have been lost as a result of environmental wear and tear, data loss, damage from the elements, incorrect display, and inadequate storage.
A team is currently working on the conservation of the Constitutional Court Art Collection, owned by the Constitutional Court Trust. The three-year project, from 2017 to 2019, includes conservation framing, restoring, cleaning, and correctly displaying and storing the collection housed at the Constitutional Court in Johannesburg, as funded by the Mellon Foundation.
This includes ongoing environmental monitoring, assessing the kind of light, humidity, heat, and moisture present in the exhibition and storage spaces at the Constitutional Court. A conservation study looked at the collection in its entirety, but also at the condition of each artwork. The results and findings of this report is an extremely valuable guiding document to inform which of the artworks can be displayed where and when, how and when they should be stored, and also which works needs specific care and attention. Understanding the environmental factors means that we are able to protect the art and ensure its longevity.
Another important part of this programme is the skills transfer happening through conservation training of the Constitutional Court Trust’s curatorial staff, paving the way for young and upcoming conservation-minded curators and art practitioners.