There is growing concern over a lack of proper record keeping of South Africa’s public art. With no updated large-scale register, opportunities for theft, loss through carelessness and more are rife.   

The South African government has a large art collection, across departments and provinces. But there’s no proper asset register for government’s art estimated at millions of rands.  

Museum Collections Curator based at the University of Pretoria Gerard de Kamper says, “When it gets to heritage lists and list of artworks in SA, there were previous attempts to put it together. The first was in middle 1970s. The list still exists but it’s outdated. In the 80s, there was also a project between the University of Johannesburg and National Research Foundation to try and update it, but nobody knows where the document from that audit is. It was originally at the National Research Foundation and they claim it went to the National Archive, but the National Archive doesn’t have it.” 

The value art worldwide is over 50 billion dollars according to one report by investment bank, UBS, and Art Basel.  

How much is South Africa’s public art worth? According to Kamper it’s hard to tell, precisely because there appears to be no comprehensive register.

The SABC has tried, on numerous occasions, to get comment from custodians of public art on this issue – and failed.

Growing concern over record keeping of South African public art: