Cape Town Mall Commission Mired in Bureaucracy
The latest Gross Trust public sculpture commission, which was awarded last year to Katherine Bull and Fritha Langerman for their collaborative proposal, has still not been realised. This is not so much due to the work being incomplete as to the process having become a bureaucratic ping-pong match.
At the outset of the commission there was controversy. When the project was granted to Langerman and Bull, they proposed moving the site from near the corner of Shortmarket street and St George's Mall to plumb in the middle of this pedestrian intersection. Because the work was relatively unobtrusive, proud of the ground by no more than the height of a cat's eye, there was no apparent problem with their request.
Unfortunately, it has subsequently transpired that this is exactly the problem. The Roads Department of the City Council (although it's not entirely sure which department, since there has been some back-and-forth politicking) says that they did hear the presentation by Bull and Langerman but never granted permission for its installation - and certainly not in writing.
The City Council feels that the work stands in danger of tripping people up with its low protrusions and do not wish to expose themselves to liability claims. In response, the artists proposed an alternative site (or an alternative to the alternative) in St. George's Mall, opposite Waldorf Arcade. Once again, the council was unhappy, for the same reasons. Another site, on the Heerengracht, near the new canal, was proposed. And again the same response.
Having been shortlisted as a finalist for this very commission, I believe there is also the smouldering issue of the commission's credibility. If the judges initially accepted a changed site, doesn't this mean that all the entrants are entitled to re-judgement, given that most of the entries were tailored to a very specific, and slightly problematic site, from the outset?