Questions today about what art should be represented in public spaces in South Africa are in fact part of a debate that is more than a century old. The Iziko South African National Gallery (SANG) is no less a contested space. Is the chief role of a national art gallery to showcase the host nation's art? Or is its mission an internationalist and historical one? The gallery is a microcosm of a greater debate - how the South African nation relates to the larger world and how, if at all, it understands the concept of a shared culture. Art and National Identity considers questions of artistic and cultural identity through a history of the South African National Gallery from the late 19th century to the present day. It explores the question of how the gallery has understood its function and its public, as a `national' gallery (from 1930) and, before that, the chief gallery of the Cape Colony. These questions are explored through a study of the gallery's administration, collection and exhibition practices, as well as the public response to exhibitions. In the last 20 years, museum studies have become a major part of the field of cultural studies. There is a vast literature on what might be called the `history' museum, but far less on the art museum or gallery, and there has been no largescale historical inquiry into the Iziko SANG, the country's national gallery. This study aims to fill this gap.
A history of the Iziko South African National Gallery
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