South African Mint Commemorates JAG Centenary with Release of Limited Edition Medallion Set

The South African Mint (SA Mint) and the Friends of JAG partner in celebrating the Johannesburg Art Gallery centenary with the launch of  three special limited edition sterling silver commemorative medallions. The medallions, which will be unveiled to the public at the 2015 FNB Joburg Art Fair, Sandton Convention Centre (11 – 13 September),  are a beautifully designed and expertly crafted homage to JAG’s original Lutyens building and the impressive public art collection it houses.

The Gallery’s stately original Lutyens building opened its doors in 1915, providing a permanent home for Johannesburg’s first public art collection. While the Lutyens building was not the first gallery or museum in SA, or the first to exhibit work by living artists, it was unique at the time in bringing together contemporary European art in a custom-designed setting, in a colonial urban centre. Situated in the heart of the city JAG has been at the centre of Johannesburg’s art scene ever since, in spite of the fluctuating fortunes of its surroundings.

Edwin Lutyens was a prominent British colonial-era architect. Different aspects of his neo-classical architectural motives, found in the JAG building, are featured on the obverse of the three 2 oz sterling silver medallions. To tie in with the architectural motifs, the reverse sides of the medallions feature prominent sculptural pieces from the JAG collection. Edoardo Villa’s (1915 – 2011) St Sebastian, which guards the northern entrance of the gallery, adorns the reverse of one of the medallions. It is also a nod to the centenary anniversary of Villa’s birth that coincides with the inaugural year of the Lutyens building. Two sculptural works by exiled Struggle Artist Dumile Feni (1942 -1991), both entitled Portrait of Chief Albert Luthuli, feature on another of the reverse sides. Bruce Arnott’s (b. 1938) bronze The Citizen, part of JAG’s Centenary Trust acquisitions made in 1986, completes the set.

To acknowledge the role of firebrand Florence Phillips, in acquiring the JAG Foundation Collection, the accompanying booklet is visual celebration of women from the Gallery’s collection, picturing both iconic representations of women, and artworks by some of South Africa’s most esteemed artists including Penny Siopis, Nandipha Mntambo, Bonnie Ntshalintshali and Helen Sebidi.