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Print Matters Heritage

Between Dreams and Realities - A History of the South African National Gallery, 1871-2017

Between Dreams and Realities - A History of the South African National Gallery, 1871-2017

Author: Marilyn Martin

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Written by Marilyn Martin, a former director of the South African National Gallery, Between Dreams and Realities is based on extensive research and experience. This book revisits important exhibitions, events and forgotten controversies; it highlights the achievements of directors, who often faced political agendas and strained relationships within and outside the institution.

Between Dreams and Realities considers the aspirations and role of civil society in creating and maintaining a national institution for the common good. Concurrently, the book examines long-standing government disinterest and neglect for the museum, and the difficulties that confronted directors in acquiring a collection worthy of its status. It also tells the story of excellent public cooperation and support, and of boards of trustees, directors and staff together overcoming the realities of budget cuts, government interference and severe space constraints.

Between Dreams and Realities is a celebration of South Africa’s heritage and cultural wealth; it contributes to the fields of museum, heritage, cultural and curatorial studies, as well as visual and art history. It opens up the discourse and revives interest in public art museums in general and in the national art museum in particular, while offering perspectives on the future, and galvanising custodians and the public into action.

The role and meaning of the national gallery is inseparable from the social, political and art contexts that frame it. SANG is perceived as a mirror of South African society, a site for cultural activism that cannot and should not strive to achieve ideological neutrality or, worse still, political correctness. MARILYN MARTIN – 2019

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Marilyn Martin

After eleven years as director of the South African National Gallery, the late Marilyn Martin was appointed director of art collections for Iziko Museums in 2001. She retired in 2008 and working as an independent writer, curator and lecturer. She was an Honorary Research Associate at the Michaelis School of Fine Art, University of Cape Town. In 2002 Martin was admitted to the Legion of Honour of the Republic of France at the rank of Officer and in 2013 she received the medal of the Fondation Alliance Française in Paris.

Marilyn Martin passed away after a short illness in 2022.