Screwed beneath the blue heritage plaque at the entrance to the recently re-opened Johannesburg Art Gallery (JAG) is a metal plate, a curious relic from times gone by. The plate tells the visitor that except for Mondays throughout the year, Good Friday and Christmas Day, the gallery is open to members of the public from 10am-5pm Tuesdays to Sundays. Entrance, we are told with breezy pride, is free. With its crisp formalities and sense of civic purpose, the plate is a sign of less troubled times. During such times it was assumed that all self-respecting cities needed an art gallery, which bought, stored and displayed art for the public good. Such times are with us no longer and, over the years, JAG has sunk into a swamp of politically motivated neglect, corruption and despair. Said one art-industry professional who didn’t want to be named: "There’s been systemic underresourcing of the institution going back 30 years. Maintenance has always been seen as a bit of a grudge purchase anyw...

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