Checking for pests on ‘Potent Fields’ by Karel Nel

South Africa | The art of a nation 2016

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How are contemporary works of art looked after at the Museum? See how Karel Nel’s ‘Potent Fields’ was prepared for our recent South African Art exhibition.

The artwork is made using ochre, a natural pigment found in the earth. It is inspired by the discovery of 77,000-year-old engraved ochre in Blombos Cave on the southern coast of South Africa. The pigment alludes to the long history of art in South Africa, but also the colour division of apartheid. The work also acknowledges the potential for a colour balance in post-apartheid South Africa.


As conservators of organic artefacts we work on a wide variety of objects from the Museum’s archaeological, historic and contemporary collections. The types of objects we are regularly working on range therefore from basketry, bark cloths, wooden sculptures, textiles, Asian lacquered objects, paintings on canvas and wooden substrates but also human and animal remains, just to name a few.