Art by the Seaside
Public art is never going to please everyone, but there was a strident outcry in November 2014 when Michael Ellion's Perceiving Freedom – a giant metal-and-plastic pair of Ray-Bans – was unveiled on Sea Point Promenade, looking out to Robben Island. Ellion's stated intention was to reference Nelson Mandela, who was once photographed wearing a pair of the iconic sunglasses. Dismissed by the local press as 'corporate vandalism' rather than art, the sculpture was itself vandalised within the month by the guerrilla graffiti group Tokolos Stencil Collective (www.facebook.com/tokolosstencils).
Perceiving Freedom was one of several installations by Art54, a World Design Capital 2014–endorsed project that was piloted along the Atlantic Seaboard, from Mouille Point to Camps Bay, to increase the city's stock of public art. Some of the works have become permanent fixtures: for example, the Promenade Pets benches by Rocklands Beach, which have seats held up by pairs of blue seagulls, black sea lions and pink poodles. At Camps Bay, you can pose like the king and queen of the beach on Greg Benetar's Royal View thrones.
At the Three Anchor Bay end of Sea Point Promenade is Kevin Brand's White Horses, which was inspired by the SS South African Seafarer's calamitous visit to Table Bay in 1966. When the ship ran aground, some of its cargo, including some plastic white horses, washed up on the shore nearby. Each of the slightly askew horses sculptures here has a vuvuzela horn in its mouth; speak into one horse and the sound comes out the mouth of another.