“Street Child World Cup Exhibition,” 2010. Exhibition view at Durban Art Gallery, Durban. Photo: Karen Stafford
The Durban Art Gallery’s collections includes everything from current and historical art and artefacts of KwaZulu-Natal to English masterpieces, from anonymous carvings, clay pots, and beadwork to the works of celebrated South African artists like Andrew Verster and Penny Siopis.
The gallery celebrated its centenary in 1992. Cathcart William Methven, then the harbor engineer, gave one of his paintings to the Town Council in 1892. Various donations and purchases were subsequently made, and in 1920 Colonel R.H. Whitwell, art connoisseur and philanthropist, presented over 400 works to the gallery, including British, French, and Dutch paintings, objets d’art such as French and Chinese ceramics, early glass vases by Lalique, and bronzes by Rodin. This established the character of the foreign collection. From the 1970s on, many works of local artists and craftspeople were added to the collection, and the gallery’s collecting focus is now largely concentrated on works which reflect the rich multicultural diversity of Durban and South Africa. The holdings now include over 3,500 works.
The Durban Art Gallery is more than just a collection of works of art. It promotes an awareness of art in general, and of the art and culture of KwaZulu-Natal in particular, through a variety of activities including workshops and films. It also regularly hosts traveling exhibitions of works that do not belong to the Gallery, such as the “Images of Human Rights” exhibition.