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Sea Point Sculptures

The Sculpture Vandal

by Matthew Blackman / 05.11.2011

In a response to the recent vandalizing of Marieke Prinsloo-Rowe’s sculptures, on the Sea Point promenade, DA Councilor JP Smith has warned that, “if the vandal is caught, I will ensure that we prosecute him (I suspect, though, that it is a “her”) to the full extent of the law.”
The acts of vandalism seem to have started shortly after the art critic Linda Stupart published an article on Mahala addressing some concerns she had over the sculptures. Her article firstly queried the City’s public art policy, which she claimed seems to allow for only the affluent to exhibit their work in public spaces. She did, however, later go on to question the artistic value of the Prinsloo-Rowe’s work Walking the Road.

Mr. Smith confirmed that the City’s policy, with regards the exhibition of public art, was that “any and all artists” can exhibit work, “as long as it does not cost the City anything and they undertake their own maintenance”. He went on to say that there was “no Public Art Police” but rather “there is a general by-law provision that says you cannot display items without the consent of Council.”

Prinsloo-Rowe’s sculptures have now been vandalised on three separate occasions by a person who seemingly objects to their aesthetic value. According to Mr. Smith, who is a member of the Mayoral Committee for Safety and Security, “we are investigating the person who we suspect of engaging in the vandalism. A charge is being laid with SAPS of malicious damage to property. We are also getting assistance from the CCTV cameras in the area.”

Councilor Smith went on to say that the “aggression and antipathy of one or two people in the ‘artistic community’ relating to these statues has been most perplexing – even to the point of my suspecting mental illness with one of them.”
When contacted for comment Ms. Stupart – a well-known feminist critic who is studying a PhD in London at the world-renowned Goldsmiths College – said that she was surprised to hear that “a woman” was suspected. She also wanted to make it clear that she in no way condoned the vandalism of Prinsloo-Rowe’s Walking the Road, despite her criticism of it as an art work.
In an email from London she said: “I am sorry that Ms Prinsloo-Rowe’s work has been so mindlessly destroyed, an action that is violent and unacceptable. It was never my intention to incite people to vandalise the work. Rather I felt it was important to point out that the work is there because of Prinsloo-Rowe’s economic advantage rather than its artistic merit. There are, however, issues [that need to be addressed] of both transparency and transformation with regard to the Sea Point Council’s decision to erect the sculptures, as well as the decision for the work to remain.”

Seemingly echoing Ms. Stupart’s sentiments DA Mayor of Cape Town, Patricia De Lille, recently stated, at the selection of Cape Town as World Design Capital for 2014, that design can be used “as a tool for transformation”. Mr. Smith has gone on record on several occasions saying that there is a lack of policy surrounding public art. Since Ms. Stupart’s article many people seem to be questioning, on various social medias, the lack of vigorous deliberative democratic structures under the current system.
In a statement form the Visual Arts Network of South Africa Mr. Ruarc Peffers acknowledged that, “the seeming lack of screening process that characterises the current public art paradigm in Cape Town is problematic. What is required is a rigorous and transparent policy that foregrounds quality and artistic excellence such that this may result in the installation of art that all Capetonians (and South Africans) can be proud of.”

Both VANSA and Mr. Smith are known to be actively involved in trying to initiate and formulate policy surrounding public art. However, there seems little doubt that, even with this policy in place, it would stop a certain Cape Town based vandal from venting “her” aesthetic criticism with the medium of a sledgehammer.

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RESPONSES (24)
  1. Anonymous says:

    j p smith is a nazi.

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  2. Brand'em says:

    One has to discern between constructive, thought provoking, aesthetic art and senseless drawings on walls, etc when assigning the label of the art as vandalism. I agree with De Lille that such forms of art contribute to the transformation and diversity of our country. Public spaces are there to be claimed, and if it is done so, constructively, then who are we to persecute those efforts. Lets appreciate and if feelings are hurt, then negotiate.

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  3. Herman Lategan says:

    To call JP Smith a Nazi is libel. I am not a big fan of his, but to call him a Nazi because he is white with blue eyes is disgusting. This vindictive anonymous commenting should be suspended on this site. JP Smith belongs to a party that I do not support, but he has never made anti-Semitic remarks, he has never gassed anybody. If you do not agree with someone’s political views, you can’t just call them Nazis because the party they belong to is centre of the political spectrum. Jesus Christ, what cunts we’ve become in this country.

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  4. Jeff Goldblum says:

    Now, Now Herman, Don’t blaspheme. That’s offensive.

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  5. Andy says:

    Thanks Herman, alas we have a policy of non-intervention on the Mahala comment boards. People must live and die by their words alone.

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  6. libelmeister says:

    Herman needs to stop being such a baby. And I think Linda should be arrested – not for vandalising the statues, which she obviously didn’t because she’s in London for fuck’s sake. But rather, for being the most banal, stereotypical, lame feminist around.

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  7. lein says:

    Its simple-to block a public thoroughfare with anything is wrong

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  8. Mestie Klitshuiser says:

    I really love all the forward thinking articles on this fantastic website but those statues were just plain common so lets give that fuzz bandit Linda a big bunch of flowers and tell JP to take a chill pill and while we are at it go and tune the lady who sculpted those figurines to go display her things at the Owl House cause what does she really expect when exhibiting such things in the public on the busiest part of the beach in Cape Town where people take their dogs to shit and unhappily married men meet each other at night for “company” as if its a big secret because its all just plain common sense if you ask me.

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  9. Anonymous says:

    The DA are a bunch of finger pointing fascists .

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  10. Anonymous says:

    I smell trolls.

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  11. Nommer 8 says:

    JP Smith is the biggest poes in the country. Just google him and see into what corruption he is part of. He is a freemasonic fuck and he makes people lose their jobs, especially in traffic. Google that shit. Google, traffic, cape town, ashraf, JP smith. And see where that gets you. Shits fucked up yo.

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  12. Bruno says:

    There really is no better vindication of Linda Stupart’s article than the senseless destruction of the ‘garden of hope’ that was created and tended by two homeless men at the end of the Sea Point promenade some 2 weeks back. These men had taken an area that was used as a dumping ground by residents and indigent alike and turned it around by planting flowers and generally beautifying the place for all who saw it.

    Acting presumably on complaints from resident(s) JP Smith and his cohorts in the CID saw to it that the garden was destroyed and turned back into the same dumping ground it had been before. His excuse being that the plants were council property. There is simply no room in his grand vision for the efforts of those off the conventional artistic map, and, in the absence of any public art policy, it would appear that those who fall foul of his personal taste face an unconditional veto at best and destruction of their efforts at worst.

    Herman you may castigate those who call him a nazi, but you’d have to admit at the very least that his policy on art has some striking similarities to a certain German national socialist from the last century, who also painted some wonderful landscapes in his time…

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  13. Derek Smith says:

    This is very very sad – I love Marieke’s work and flew to Cape Town from Jozi especially to photograph the pieces. Whoever vandalized these, or any public artwork for that matter, whether you like it or not is beside the point.

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  14. the present says:

    … a consensus seems to be crystal clear amongst all those who actually care and discuss these issues: in/back with the (communal, democratic, beautiful) gardens and out with (ego-show, bought-in, super-ugly) sculptures!
    Particularly in the light of a surprising win as ‘design capital’ (what on earth for at this stage? Did they feel THAT sorry for us?): sculptures like that don’t cut it now, do they. And on the other hand: on-the-ground beautification involving nature actually does. And we all know it, so let’s see some turn-around action in the city council. Take those ‘sculptures’ away already and help with regreening and landscaping that area more. That would be START in terms of good design, civic management, humanitarian involvement, etc.
    And to all the trolls slinging mud about feminism and making personal insults: you are wasting everybody’s time by watering down a very important discussion. This is about CHANGE, not your willies being too small.
    Lastly: The (public!) remarks by Smith should get him suspended, he’s worse than any of the trolls on Mahala – to insinuate in this manner is beyond what can be tolerated from a public official.

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  15. syd willow says:

    viva bruno viva!

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  16. Linda Stupart says:

    There is so much about this that makes me furious:

    The attempt to define some kind of ‘artistic community’ – to use Smith’s venomous quotation marks – as a vindictive, immature and jealousy-driven (Smith suggests in his letter to M Blackman that this vandalism is borne from artistic jealousy more than once) cultural elite, who hate and destroy things simply because we don’t like them. If anything, maybe he should have considered our alleged bitterness might stem from the fact we don’t have the money to make eighteen such sculptures, or harbor the leanings towards the empty, vapid signifiers that would fit into his idea of what is ‘allowed’ on the promenade.

    Also in the letter to Blackman, Smith comments that each time one of the artworks is vandalised it will be restored and retained for another six months, even though the shoddy construction is making them fall apart. Essentially then, some kind of fatherly punishment towards aforementioned rogue ‘art community’.

    There’s a lot more to unpack in Smith’s commentary, not to mention his blatant libel (when phoned for comment from the reporter he also apparently confirmed it was me, specifically, who was being investigated) and we should also remember some of his other actions, like tearing down the wall at Graaff’s pool, a space that Neville Dubow once described as “a three-dimensional manifestation of our social history”.

    For me, though, the worst thing about this whole debacle is the fact that this government official could equate engaged cultural criticism and investigative journalism with violence and vandalism. In this kind of climate I’m surprised that the Secrecy Bill managed to be kicked out at all…

    Mr Smith, you’ll be hearing from me soon.

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  17. Bob Marley says:

    J P Smith is no democrat

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  18. Anonymous says:

    I take offense to Smith being called a Nazi, there’s a big difference between Nazi and a neo conservative suburban grayscale hump, balls deep in mediocrity and banality.

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  19. Anonymous says:

    I love the way you all get so worked up by what anybody posts in the comments section. As long as nobody is accountable for their words, it is all just wind.

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  20. Linda Stupart says:

    Actually I like the sculptures allot.

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  21. arnaud says:

    I like the foto. Put a plaque on the plinth :
    Memorial to art
    or
    This plinth commemorates the art it once supported.

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  22. Anonymous says:

    i think that we can agree that they should stop putting up old, boring, “nose in the air” rubbish and put up new taught provoking work by great YOUNG artists. old people arent going to live for a whole lot longer and eventually its going to be our voices that matter anyway.

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  23. beherenow says:

    Perhaps anon is unsure of the difference between nazis and facists. But that is not the real issue – it was just a dumb comment by a dumb commentator. Ignore fools, Herman.

    Point is we no longer live in a fascist state. Therefore all art is the same as free speech – even if we disagree with it we must let it be said/ viewed/ seen/ heard.

    I do not particularly like the art along the beachfront but that does not permit me to trash it, except in voicing my opinion, which if it is negative should provide some justification for my views. Or I could just say I viscerally dislike it and leave it at that…

    But trashing things because you don’t like them is like swearing because you lack the vocabulary – it indicates a lack of either insight, intelligence or education.

    The art world of cape town remains dominated by the wealthy – look who buys art anyway and consider that as possibly being connected to the previous point? That does not make it right, it just is.

    But if an art policy is to be arrived at, JP Smit is the last person who should be considered putting in charge. He turned the cities dog policy into a dogs breakfast. He is behind the stupid shutting of pubs at 11pm – a damn fool idea if ever there was one.

    He is not progressive enough to understand art and to have a securocrat in charge of art is like putting PW Botha in control of nationalist architecture. Ooops, that happened and look at what we have to live with…….

    Lastly, viva free speech but don’t post kak and claim anonymity, that’s just pathetic, cowardly, typical cop-out seffrican BS.

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  24. willie Damage says:

    JP SMITH is n Douche ! Nazi , you selling him a bit short , real nutsack !

    Public space belong to the public , and we WILL take it ! OR Jean Pierre you want the publicspace to belong to you ??????
    EAT shit!

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