Curating behind the scenes is a new blog-style series written by Daniël Geldenhuys, taking readers through the behind-the-scenes process of organising and curating an up-coming retrospective exhibition honouring the late Prof Neville Dubow at the Irma Stern Museum. Find the links to the first two editions of the series at the bottom of this post.
Curating behind the scenes #03: My week with Marilyn
An optimistic vibration from my mail app announced that I, intern, had become we, interns. Antonia Bamford, fellow Honours student in Curatorship, was joining me in assisting Marilyn Martin and Paul Weinberg to prepare The Thinking Eye: Photographs by Neville Dubow. With an admirable Cape Town/Joburg flight nonchalance, Antonia jetted in from London the morning after Easter weekend to join what has officially been christened Team Dubow.
Marilyn Martin, matriarch of Team Dubow, has a special way of making everyone feel included. I’m willing to bet Antonia feels as invested and involved in the project as I do. After the past week of meetings managed by Marilyn, how could we not?
The first stop was the Irma Stern Museum, which will rightfully be hosting the Dubow exhibition. Rightfully because the late Dubow was the founding director of the museum (a position very close to his heart according to his wife) from 1971. The full Team Dubow, including Paul Weinberg and Stern staff, Mary van Blommestein (curator) and Christopher Peter (director), sat down at a table (once occupied by Dubow and Stern) to talk details.
The meeting was everything but stern. After sorting out the formalities, Van Blommestein and Peter’s hospitality allowed for anecdotes about the museum space, perennial style movements, and the times Peter would stand guard at various European museums while a naughty Neville Dubow took pictures of the space, probably to use in his lectures at Michaelis.
Days later, back in Paul’s office, we interns helped him and Marilyn study the photographs to determine the extent to which they need to be restored. Though a lot of the mounts have begun to look like they were put through an Instagram filter, the photographs themselves are aging as gracefully as Madonna herself.
Paul sent Antonia and myself on a little training session to learn how to use Sketch Up. The programme is used to build and manipulate a digital three-dimensional space – this is how we will plan the exhibition before it actually goes onto the walls at Irma Stern. Sounds complicated, but thanks to the expert guidance of Paul’s colleague Brian Muller, the programme doesn’t seem much harder to understand than Paint.
My week with Marilyn concluded with a scenic drive to Sea Point to visit Dubow’s wife, Rhona. Of course Antonia joined us, coming this time from a hike up Lion’s Head instead of Heathrow. I tore my eyes away from Rhona’s hypnotic 9th floor ocean view to treat them even further to the portraits on her walls of Neville by various artists. These will be in the show, so you won’t miss them.
Marilyn, in her spirit of inclusivity, filled RhonaDubow in on the scope of the exhibition and our progress in making it a reality. When Marilyn voiced the opening date was 16 May, Rhona assumed that meant 2016. Her eyes widened when she learned the truth. MrsDubow’s expression said it all: the time crunch is on. She needn’t worry: Team Dubow is ready.
Header image: The view from Rhona Dubow’s 9th-floor apartment in Sea Point – by Daniël Geldenhuys