A series of 18 sculptures on the Seapoint promenade has been vandalised this week, the latest incident occurring a day before it was announced that Cape Town is to be World Design Capital 2014.
On Tuesday morning one of the sculptures lay in pieces on the ground, having been smashed off its base.
It was the third such incident in five weeks, and the fourth in total – a sculpture was damaged over New Years eve.
But sculptor Marieke Prinsloo-Rowe has adopted a philosophical approach to the matter.
She said the sculptures, an analogy of a South African democracy depicted in a linear story of a young girl in a red and white striped bathing costume attempting – and eventually succeeding – in realizing her dream of freedom as symbolised by a dragonfly, form part of her Masters degree from Wits University examining art in public spaces.
Prinsloo-Rowe said the sculptures, erected in June last year just in time for the Fifa World Cup, were only meant to remain for a year.
While the city has since requested that the artworks remain on the promenade for a further two years, they’ve already been there four months beyond the intended period, she said.
Taking this into consideration, along with the need to recast and mount the sculptures every time they are damaged, she said she is considering removing them.
“It’s a pity it’s (vandalism) has escalated to this point where it is difficult for me to keep up,” she said.
She said she also was not sure whether all the incidents could be attributed to malicious acts of vandalism.
She said response from the public had been “so positive”, to the point where people had emailed her photos of themselves posing on the sculptures, even sitting on the girl’s outstretched arms, that it was possible the overenthusiastic response of some people had resulted in damage.
In fact the first incident in the latest spate of vandalism was actually a group of UCT students, she said, who removed one of the sculptures complete from its base – “quite a feat” – and displayed it in their residence.
She said she decided not to press charges and told them they could keep it so long as they displayed it properly.
As a result she received a very apologetic letter from the university assuring her that it was not the way they normally went about obtaining works for their art collection.
“It’s just such a pity that just having been nominated design capital, we have to take down art displayed in public places,” she said.
“But perhaps it’s someone else’s turn to put their art there.”
City arts and culture project developer Lesley Truter, said the nature of some of the recent incidents pointed toward targeted vandalism.
Truter said it was “kind of sad” that it has happened during the lead up to Cape Town receiving the award of World Design Capital.
Truter said if Prinsloo-Rowe decided to remove her sculptures it was not certain when new works by another artist could replace them as part of the reason for extending the time the sculptures would remain was because plans were in the offing for upgrading the promenade as part of the Seapoint urban park.
Until these plans were finalised, it would not be possible to display new artworks. — Steve Kretzmann