Changing landscape: St Teresa’s School faces onto Keyes Avenue. The school is supporting Keyes Art Mile’s conservation efforts with the construction of a lush veld wall. Picture: SUPPLIED
Changing landscape: St Teresa’s School faces onto Keyes Avenue. The school is supporting Keyes Art Mile’s conservation efforts with the construction of a lush veld wall. Picture: SUPPLIED

Keyes Art Mile is transforming a slice of Rosebank, Johannesburg, into an urban green landscape. It is spearheading the return of the indigenous Egoli granite grassland plant biome to the bustling and rapidly changing suburb.

St Teresa’s School, which faces onto Keyes Avenue, is supporting the developers’ conservation efforts with the construction of a lush veld wall.

Former investment banker now property developer Anton Taljaard envisages a neighbourhood precinct developed in six stages. He is confident that it will alter public perceptions and create a truly green indigenous plant network tying together all of Rosebank.

The completed phase one, Trumpet Building, is a flourishing art project. SA’s market for art is fast changing with fairs, project spaces, private museums, strong commercial and national galleries and growing international recognition.

"The more doors there are for the artists to walk through the better. And it keeps everyone raising the bar, which is good for SA," says Taljaard, who is also an avid art collector.

Modern greenery: A view down Keyes Avenue, with Circa Gallery in the foreground. Picture: SUPPLIED
Modern greenery: A view down Keyes Avenue, with Circa Gallery in the foreground. Picture: SUPPLIED

Development of phase two and three, situated on the diagonally opposite corner of Keyes and Jellicoe Avenue, will begin in August. It will include street front retail, neighbourhood orientated shops, office space and 140 apartments situated around a horizontal piazza and private art museum.

"It is an interesting concept that you can develop a portfolio of properties that in essence is a private property fund with the primary goal of supporting and promoting the arts," Taljaard says. "It is a symbiotic relationship: a truly commercial property development that is going to do good things for art. It speaks to two of my interests."

He believes partnerships are crucial in unlocking potential for the rejuvenation of the Johannesburg Art Gallery, which has fallen into disrepair, the creation of a Johannesburg art circuit and improving collaborative networks with organisations in Cape Town.

"We can weave a framework of art and art-supported developments in our country that will elevate everybody’s efforts in the art world. The idea of collaborating on exhibitions and international shows that can go on a circuit in SA is a common goal," says Taljaard.

Keyes Art Mile celebrated design month in May with an exhibition entitled Masters of Modernism. Furniture from the maestri range, designed by the father of modernism, Swiss architect Le Corbusier, and others was displayed in a multi-media exhibition.

The furniture can be bought in the Trumpet building from True Design, a shop that stocks Kartell, Cassina and Moroso designs as historical items or usable investments.

"The elements that made the chairs iconic decades ago remain relevant today and for future generations," says True Design owner Aldon McLeod.

"Putting on an exhibition like this also allows local designers to aspire to achieve not only the same level of execution, but the dream of creating the next iconic masterpiece."

In the interests of promoting local art, Taljaard has dedicated a corner of the building to a mixed reality workshop, gallery space and nonprofit company TMRW Gallery.

There’s a huge element of wonder with new technologies like augmented reality
Gareth Steele
Art director at Digital Foundry.

"Our focus is on creating really exciting artworks with South African artists and presenting world-class shows overseas. You have to create something with this technology that will stand the test of time, just like they did in 1950 with the chair design, which was then absolutely cutting edge," says Taljaard.

SA is regarded as a leader in the field of digital art technology. The gallery studies the future of technology in art and makes available creation tools for virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) to artists to apply to their practices, and to audiences so that they can engage with the experience.

The service provider for TMRW Gallery is The Digital Foundry, which facilitates the learning curve for artists. They are taught how to utilise VR, AR, and 360-degree tools to extend their creative practice into a multidimensional space.

The May exhibition featured the Goethe Institute’s New Dimensions — Virtual Reality Africa. It showcased four VR films that were co-produced with Cape Town-based company Electric South.

Mary Sibande’s exhibition, A Crescendo of Ecstasy, which runs until July 29, amplifies her acclaimed sculpture of The Purple figure with digital elements to create a real and immersive virtual experience.

"There’s a huge element of wonder with new technologies like augmented reality," explains Gareth Steele, art director at Digital Foundry.

"Technology combined with art is a recipe for the truly memorable experience of being able to interrogate a seemingly invisible object in the physical space. With the aid of a tablet or device the viewer gets a personal experience driven by their own curiosity.

"New developments are pushing beyond confined trigger-based augmentations to the unbridled realm of trigger-less holograms and augmentations. This means future canvases can spill into the real world, without limitations of traditional canvases and galleries."

Digital Foundry director of technology Rick Treweek says AR is a window into a digital world. "It can really extend the art works and give another insight into them.

"AR has a massive impact on the art world as a tool, such as added information on the works and as an artistic extension of the work itself. AR allows interaction, giving the viewer a personal journey. This opens up an entire new medium for artists to work with."

Taljaard says personal experience is still the bottom line for art collectors. "I look at something and, if I like it, I add it to my collection.

"It is a narrow market. The value lies in limiting the number of copies and the percentage of the ideas and concepts embedded in the artwork that you own. We use technology not only for creation, but also for the protection and transferability of the art works.

"You can treat digital artworks almost like sculptures. There will be a limited edition of a certain number and it is important to protect the integrity of that number so that it cannot be duplicated," he says.

"For instance, if you have a virtual sculpture, you can geotag it so that it can only live on your patio. It doesn’t exist anywhere else. Although it is invisible, it has some of the traits of a physical object because it only exists in a certain space.

"There is a keychain that allows you to transfer that ownership or location to another place."

TMRW Gallery is compiling an exhibition for September, to coincide with the FNB Joburg Art Fair. It will feature contemporary artists, led by Wayne Barker, responding physically and digitally to old South African masterpieces from private collections, including Pierneef and Laubser.

"In a country where access and opportunity to see South African Old Masters is limited, it is always beneficial to make private collections public," Taljaard says.

"By showing the old work in conjunction with contemporary and new media works we are able to reflect on the past, the present and the future."

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