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World Art Day 2013: Speak Up!

by Marilyn de Freitas posted on April 16, 2013.

2013 marked the second celebration of World Art Day on 15 April to commemorate Leonardo da Vinci’s birthday. Various artists, galleries, public institutions and museums from around the world were challenged to celebrate the arts and encourage dialogue about the importance of social discussion of issues affecting society today.

In 2011, the International Association of Arts (IAA) proposed that Da Vinci’s birthday be declared and celebrated as World Art Day. The President of IAA World, Mexican Rosa Maria Burillo Velasco said, “Art is the most genuine expression of the human soul, shaped in images words, sounds and movements enduring reflections that describe us the story of humanity. World Art Day will permit to all the artists and art lovers of the world, to feel the power and the preciousness of art simultaneously and let all of us breathe its importance for all nations of the World.”

The 2012 celebrations by the Moderna Museet in Stockholm, promised bold programme on the complex aesthetic, psychological, social and political layers within society through various installations and lectures. The event lived up to its aim and was in the headlines due to an installation by artist Makode Aj Linde depicting a black woman’s naked torso with the artist’s own head, painted black, at the top. Politician Lena Adelsohn Liljeroth was slammed after she was pictured enacting female genital mutilation by cutting up the cake. The event was branded a “racist spectacle” by various groups.

View a video of the event: Makode Lindes Cake at World Art Day:

In 2013, we celebrate Da Vinci's 561st birthday. Known as 'Leonardo the artist' and 'Leonardo the scientist' simultaneously, Da Vinci (1452 – 1519) studied nature and life with intricate detail through multitudes of drawings and paintings becoming one of the best known Renaissance artists of all time, a jack of all trades of sorts. World Art Day aims "help tremendously the spreading of the 'art awareness' throughout the globe" but exposure and marketing of the dialogue has been limited and insufficient to help boost the arts, and the many municipalities, universities, museums and foundations that aim to promote it.

Google Art Project celebrated World Art Day 2013 by sharing the most visited painting in their online collection, The Starry Night by Vincent van Gogh, which is housed at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. On an average, people spend over a minute looking at the high definition painting. In Dublin, Ireland, ArtSpace@Arc and their artists held a marathon of quick sketch portraits for the public on 13th and 14th April to mark the occasion.

In South Africa, the Association of Arts Pretoria together with The South African National Association for the Visual Arts (SANAVA) is hosting an exhibition, ENGAGE II, from 15 April 2013 to 26 April 2013. The exhibition focuses on an informal collaboration between 2D and 3D artists for them to visually or intellectually engage with each others’ work. Ideally a visual synergy between the two individual works should create a marriage of either convenience or inconvenience.

The Mbombela Art Gallery and the Mbombela Local Municipality will be hosting an exhibition for local artists celebrating "World Art Day April 15", showcasing works by local artists. Local artists will include Lebo Tamae, Jax Boshoff, Charl Bruwer, Linda Shongwe, Hester Louw and more.

Controversy surrounded the exhibition when a painting by Kobus Myburgh depicting President Jacob Zuma and former president Nelson Mandela as whites was removed by the council’s arts and culture head Themba Mona and locked in the storeroom, reports Beeld. The art work also depicts former heads of state Hendrik Verwoerd, John Vorster, PW Botha and FW de Klerk as blacks. Myburgh said "It is by no means a protest piece. There is a positive message, to show that we are actually all alike. That's why I called the painting Simunye – the Zulu word for 'we are one'. We are and remain equal, regardless of the colour of our skin." During an inspection of the exhibition, Mona decided that it was “not suitable” for public viewing. The exhibition runs until 20 April.

The IAA aims for World Art Day emphasize the importance of art and broaden the public consciousness of and access to the visual arts. The cases of the contraversal installation by Makode Aj Linde and withdrawal of Kobus Myburgh’s visual political analogy demonstrate the lack of dialogue of societal issues and the exposure and interpretation of the arts.


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