Home > About > Governance and Policies

Home > About > Governance and Policies

Governance and Policies

The University of Cape Town (UCT) Works of Art Committee reports to both the UCT Senate and the UCT Council .

Governance policies:

University of Cape Town Works of Art Collection Policy 

The aims of the collection
Acquisition: loans, acquisitions, donations and process
Collection inventory and management
De-accessioning art works.

The aims of the collection

1.    The aims of the collection are 

(a)    To develop, maintain and curate a collection of work of demonstrable excellence and interest to the University, by South African and African artists and performers, giving particular attention to creative individuals and collectives with a UCT connection.

(b)    To acquire and commission work of art, in some cases for display in buildings and spaces (having regard to the policy of spending 1% of the cost of a building on works of art to enhance it).

(c)    Through appropriately curated exhibitions to expose members of the University to a politically and conceptually representative range of work by South African and African artists.

(d)    To further the University’s transformation agenda.


2.    Criteria for acquisition

We collect works of visual and performing arts to further these aims whether by loan, purchase, commission, gift or donation, in the following priority order.

  • Major works, in terms of scope and significance.
  • Works of demonstrable excellence by SA and African artists and performers and by emerging SA and African artists, especially artists who have a UCT connection;
  • Site-specific work; and
  • Other work which contributes to the congruence of or redress identified imbalances in the current collection. 

Specific areas of collecting may be identified for attention.

3.    Loans to the University

We encourage the loan to UCT of work that furthers one or more of the aims of the collection.

Offers of work for loan must be considered by the WOAC which will where possible seek the advice of the acquisitions sub-committee (see below). Any acceptance of a work on loan must be subject to a written loan agreement between the lender and the University. The financial and legal implications of accepting a loan must be considered. Every loan agreement must provide for the management, insurance and resource implications of accepting the loans and must specify

  • the conditions of the loan, and the term of the loan;
  • what insurance, if any, the lender has and/or will have in place for the duration of the loan; and 
  • what insurance obligation, if any, the University will have for the duration of the loan.

4.    Acquisitions

We will acquire major works in terms of scope and significance. Subsidiary purchases may be made from the balance of annual funds, after careful consideration for the desirability of the acquisition.

Clear legal title is required for all art works permanently acquired. Title will pass to the University and not to any individual or organisational unit within it. At the time of purchase the WOAC will request 

(i)    permission to create and publish images of the artwork; and 
(ii)    a free licence for UCT to reproduce works for non-profit UCT purposes. 

Any agreement with the copyright-holder (usually the artist) must be documented. As a matter of law and policy, and in general, copyright in each work shall remain the property of the artist, even when he work has been commissioned by the University.

All art works acquired by UCT (whether by or on behalf of the WOAC or not) will be accessioned into the University Art Collection register and added to the University’s asset register.

5.    Donations of work

We encourage donations to the Collection, provided these further its aims. The WOAC may accept or refuse offers, after consultation with the Development Office. Donations of work will only be accepted where the donor has legal title to the work and the donation is made on the basis of a total transfer from the donor to the University. 

A SA taxpayer may qualify for income-tax relief for work donated to the University.

6.    Acquisitions process: the Works of Art Committee’s procedures for acquisitions

The Works of Art Committee (WOAC) is a standing university committee. It receives budget appropriations for acquiring and commissioning work. Members of the WOAC will undertake with the assistance and guidance of the University’s Curator: to visit exhibitions, auctions, and art dealers in search of work which may be acquired; to identify gaps in the collection; and to identify artists and performers who should be represented in it, by purchase of work or by commissioned work. In the case of work to be acquired or commissioned as site-specific work (e.g. for a new building) the WOAC will consult, or include in such ad hoc committee, building users.

7.    Other acquisitions

The WOAC has authority over budget allocated to it. It does not have a monopoly on the acquisition of work for UCT from other sources, but it will advise other University entities planning to acquire work (by purchase or commission), taking account of the committee’s terms of reference. All University acquisitions will be accessioned as part of the collection.

8.    Collection management and reporting

The WOAC will strive to ensure that the university curator, assisted by the/director and staff of the Irma Stern museum, maintains and displays the collection in accordance with national standards and conventions of museum conservation, handling, storage and security. It will ensure that display of works includes appropriate contextual information.

9.    The WOAC will strive to maintain a complete record of the collection (including a catalogue containing digital images of all works, where possible at digital standards allowing for reproduction, location, and provenance and accession number) and make this available for study and research. Responsibility for collection maintenance and record-keeping rests with the University Curator, assisted by the Director of ISM. The University Curator will report at least annually to the WOAC on the state of the collection.

10.    The WOAC will determine where to hang/display work in consultation with the curator of the University, and may move work

(a)    for exhibition; and/or
(b)    to different venues

as it decides from time to time, in order to further the aims of the collection.

11.    The WOAC must report annually on the collection, including details of acquisitions, collection maintenance, and record keeping to the Heritage and Collections’ Stewardship Committee.

Loans policy

12.    The WOAC may allow work form the collection to be made available for temporary exhibition in South Africa, subject to written agreement, detailing the terms of the loan and specifying insurance obligations on the borrower. Works from the Collection will be available for temporary exhibitions outside SA on approval by the WOAC, where the WOAC accepts the importance of the exhibition and is satisfied that the proposed loan agreement protects the University’s interests.

De-accessioning art works

13.    The Collection will be subject to periodic review by the WOAC. The following may constitute grounds for de-accessioning work

a.    duplication 
b.    damage or serious deterioration in condition;
c.    the possibility of upgrading by exchange; 
d.    repatriation of cultural material;
e.    relevance to the Collections Policy;
f.     absence of clear legal title 

No work will be de-accessioned without a majority decision of the WOAC and the approval of the Heritage and Collections’ Stewardship Committee of Senate after the submission of a Deaccession Proposal to the relevant body. Work identified for disposal will be valued by a recognised valuer and offered for sale or donation in the following priority order: (i) any public Art Gallery of South Africa; (ii) through an auction house; (iii) the artist of the work. De-accessioning and disposal of works or art will be undertaken by the Director of the ISM following approval from the WOAC.

Funds or compensation received from the de-accessioning and disposal of works of art from the Collection must be used solely by the WOAC for acquisitions.


14.    The WOAC is accountable for the implementation of this policy.

University of Cape Town Works of Art Curatorial Policy

First draft March 2018

1.    Context of the policy

This policy arose out of the recommendations to Council by the Artwork Task Team set up in October 2015 post the events by the #RhodesMustFall movement at the University of Cape Town. It is therefore important to see the #RMF movement as an important catalyst that called into question a re-envisioning of artworks at UCT. Subsequently, the 2016 events around #Shackville were similarly significant and have reanimated new conversations and put a spotlight on the Works of Art Collection (the Collection). The many forms of student action at UCT have highlighted the important role that art plays in the learning environment as well as its value in contributing to transformative knowledge production.

While the Works of Art Collection Policy and its acquisition framework (Annexure 2) is considered progressive, it does however fall short in ensuring diversity and inclusivity of artists and artworks as it prioritises those affiliated to the UCT Art school, who are predominantly white. This policy extends the implementation of the Collection Policy by focusing specifically on the value of the Collection as it contributes to strategic objectives of the university with regards to transformation and inclusivity.

Around the five campuses (Medical campus, Hiddingh, Lower, Midddle and Upper) of UCT there are currently approximately 1364 artworks distributed in 70 buildings. The Collection of artworks encompasses works of all art forms including, but not limited to, paintings, photographs, drawings, fibre or textile art, prints, statues, sculptures. The artworks include works from 693 artists acquired by the University and formally accepted into the Collection.

2.     Terms and Definitions 

  • Accession: The process of accepting and recording all pertinent information of each acquisition into the university collection.
  • Artworks or art: Original creative work such as a painting, drawing, or sculpture. Can include decorative arts, design objects, or cultural artifacts
  • Curator: One who is responsible for maintaining, handling, and care of all objects in the university collection and their use
  • Deaccession: Permanent removal of a work of art from the University’s collection through sale, transfer, exchange, or disposal.
  • Decolonisation: A process that “sets out to change the order of the world, and is, obviously, a program of complete disorder” (Fanon, 1963:36) and made up of ‘everyday acts of resurgence’ that regenerate indigenous or local knowledges, epistemologies, and ways of life which are always adapting, creating and moving forward. (Corntassel, 2012)
  • Loan: A work that is temporarily borrowed within the university, by the university or by another institution for exhibition, display, or scholarship.
  • Public/public space: All exterior and interior spaces, enclosed or not, with the exception of personal office space. These include but are not limited to spaces such as sidewalks, plazas, green spaces, corridors and building walls as well as interior spaces including hallways, lobbies, stairways, parking garages, sports and recreational facilities.

3.    Policy Statement 


The WOAC recognises and promotes the value of the UCT Collection as being an inspiring and transformative intellectual repository of cultural, educational, scientific, and artistic research scholarship shared by academics, students, staff and cultural communities in and around the university. Located in a leading university in Africa, the Collection is an enriching asset that celebrates the cultural diversity of its location and people in the city, province and region by promoting a vibrant and dynamic visual arts presence. 

Interpretation of the mission

Given such immense value and reach, works of art within the Collection that are deemed purely decorative are not without value-judgements. Thus, a necessary audit of artworks should ensure that works of art contribute to the future of the Collection and its role in the University. Upon regular review of this policy, the Works of Art Committee (WOAC), which is responsible for custodianship and administration of the collection, may choose to re-evaluate works in the Collections and recommend deaccessioning.

The Collection comprises works intended to support and contribute to the University’s vision, mission and strategy with respect to:

  • Contributing to an inclusive and diverse institutional culture, character and an inspiring future that offers a unique experience of the University.
  • Playing an important role in the discovery, study, understanding and creation of new knowledge that is distinctively African.
  • Developing an excellent art Collection that is made accessible to engage visitors and the wider university community through exhibitions, seminars, lectures and support for the university’s research mission.

The Curator/s

For the University to show its commitment to the Collection it is imperative that a dedicated art curator/s be appointed, as this will highlight the importance of art and culture at UCT. The art curator/s would be responsible for processing, presentation, acquisitions, de-accessions, loans, storing, conservation, documenting, security, management and maintaining records, as well as conceiving and guiding exhibitions while being attentive to transformation and social justice. This process would include identifying the strengths and weaknesses of the Collection, its breadth and diversity, going beyond the work initiated by the Artworks Task Team.

The Collection’s curator/s should be considered in relation to that of other curators (CAS gallery, Michaelis gallery and Irma Stern Museum) as the former’s role would be to examine the Collection across five university campuses. The curator/s, with diverse cultural background and academic plurality, should also foster collaborations with faculty and departments for scholarly, professional development and innovative pedagogical strategies. Thus the positioning of the curator/s and inclusion within the university’s structures and various hierarchies would have to be well considered.

The university museum-gallery

While discussions about a dedicated museum for the Collection have been ongoing since the late 1970s/early 1980s, persistent contestations about artworks at UCT have pressed on the demand for a dedicated space for art works. This is further articulated in the Artworks Task Team recommendation that an art museum be built and a curatorial team appointed for purposes of exhibiting artworks, as well as providing a space for various debates and discourses on all forms of art.

Envisioning a university museum as a dynamic learning space for research and teaching as well as safe-keeping of artworks, should not be foreclosed by limitations of funding and location. These discussions have been on going for 40 years at UCT, rehashing the same venues and funding strategies while changing committee members. The artworks remain hung without curatorial scope in some buildings and public spaces thus provoking deep affective responses.

A museum cannot stand in for surety against damage, destruction or loss of artworks. However, it can offer a space for processing and reflecting on the value of both creation and demise, as well as articulating positions and an enabling environment for social change. Events around works of art at UCT recur occasionally, seemingly with no lessons learnt.. This is counterintuitive within a learning and teaching environment such as UCT. In order for change to happen, the University needs to champion a new re-envisioned and transformative approach that promotes the process of decolonising the curatorial practice.  

4.    Policy Principles
In developing, managing and using the Collection, the policy (as implemented by the WOAC and the Curator) adheres to these principles, which are consistent with the university’s mission, vision and strategic plan:

  • Provide public access (e.g. through curating campus tours that are guided by students; public exhibitions)
  • Demonstrate leadership in transformation, inclusivity and social justice (ensuring that issues of gender, race, sexuality, class, dis/ability are well-considered and promoted through the Collection and its public engagement)
  • Lead in education and researching platforms (organising with departments / faculties colloquia, seminars, lectures and other programmes of engagement)
  • Accountability –representative of the excellence of African and South African-focused fine and creative arts as in the display and enhancement of the built environment as well as transforming learning spaces. 

4.1    Policy guidelines

The UCT collection should be developed, curated and managed as a resource to inspire, educate and inform the University and wider community, and to visualise new futures for the university while being cognisant of the present context (which is constantly revisiting the university’s past, history and heritage).

In support of UCT’s transformation mandate, it is important that an inclusive response to a curatorial approach be established to govern each functional area of the university. These areas are categorised into four sections, which promote the Collection’s relevance to the academic project.

Teaching and Learning:

Collaborate with departments and faculties to ensure the Collection is used across undergraduate and postgraduate graduate curricula in different faculties, departments and programs beyond those that are art and archive-related.

Reassess the selection and arrangement of artworks as products of knowledge bearing meanings and significance. Understood in the context of curation, artworks in isolation may carry different meanings when placed in an appropriate context.

To enhance continual learning, the Collection shall foreground its unique African perspective by providing new frameworks for understanding and articulation of artworks, and the university’s location or place in the world.

Through the Curator/s the Collection shall propose new frameworks for decolonizing language, translation and art discourses and stepping away from homogenizing terms.

The Collection shall be made easily available for research and teaching and integrated into the university’s academic programme. It shall be searchable by artist, category, medium, value, location on campus, as well as African themes or an extensive index.

The Collection shall inspire and stimulate research and scholarship, resulting in significant publications and exhibitions, attracting research grants, cross-institutional collaborations and involvement of local communities who contribute to the Collection.

Community Engagement

Accessioned artworks will include those of local artists whose work can be accessible to communities, local and international visitors.

The Collection shall be accessible to visitors and attract more through, but not limited to, schools education programs; curriculum-based learning; and a range of public programs including exhibitions, talks, activities, lectures, campus and education tours.

Institutional Culture

The Collection shall be critical of acts that ‘unconsciously’ privilege certain media, forms, aesthetic approaches or cultures while devaluing others. Thus, the collection shall be culturally inclusive, always challenging normative and homogenizing frameworks that contribute to marginalizing some ideas, people and positions.

In maintaining an affirming institutional culture for all, the curatorial responsibility for the Collection shall extend to:

  • Curation of culturally resonant spaces and approaches
  • Validating local modes of thinking, understnding and being
  • Expanding views on contemporary art norms

5.    Policy implementation
The Works of Art Committee (WOAC) shall be the entity responsible for oversight, consultation and approvals regarding the University’s Collection.

6.    Related documentation

  • Report by the Artworks Task Team, 2017
  • Works of Art Collection Policy, 2009
  • UCT Vision and Mission, 2016
  • UCT Strategic Planning Framework 2016-2010

In her MA thesis “Ethics of the Dust: On the Care of the University Art Collection” (2015), Jessica Natasha Brown explores the history of the Works of Art Committee and debates that ensured in relation to a museum-cum-art gallery (the Works of Art Committee Minutes, 9 May 1979, WOAC Archive.)

The current contestations around the Saartjie Baartman sculpture for example are a restaging of events of April 30, 2001 held at the Centre for African Studies (CAS) for the discussion ‘Celebration or Scandal?’ organised by the African Gender Institute, Centre for African Studies and the UCT Women’s Movement. Panelists included the artist, Willie Bester, feminist and historian Dr Yvette Abrahams who had been working on the life of Saartjie Baartman at the time, as well as the then chair of the WOAC. Professor Amina Mama, former Director of the African Gender Institute chaired the discussion (see University of Cape Town Works of Art Committee Minutes, 26 April 2001 as well as Brown’s (2015) MA dissertation.