WITSReview April 2020

Page 82



– A History of the South African National Gallery, 1871 – 2017 By Marilyn Martin

Image: Iziko

Print Matters Heritage, 2019



hat value does an art museum add to a society? This is one of the questions which Marilyn Martin (M Arch 1980), a former director of the South African National Gallery, explores in Between Dreams and Realities: A History of the South African National Gallery, 1871 – 2017. Martin tells the engaging story of South Africa’s pre-eminent art museum based on extensive research and experience. Her book revisits important exhibitions, events and forgotten controversies as well as highlighting the achievements of directors, who often faced political agendas that strained relationships within and outside the institution. Martin’s narrative begins in 1871, with a bequest of 45 paintings and money for the establishment of a public art gallery in Cape Town, and ends in 2017, 80


a time of extraordinary changes in South Africa’s art and museum sectors. Richly illustrated with key art works, installation shots and photographs of individuals and groups, Between Dreams and Realities considers the aspirations and role of civil society in creating and maintaining a national institution for the common good. Albie Sachs writes in the foreward: “Meticulously researched and carefully written, this book is more than just a rich repository of information about an important public institution with high intentions. It is the pained life story of an organic body that was dedicated to idealistic pursuits and yet found itself bedevilled by egotism, materialism and official indifference. In making a striking and substantial contribution to the history of the South African National Gallery, Martin presents a rich story, with