Go Back Blog: Exhibition Opening
Louis Wald

Robert Kaplan addresses the audience with Table Montain in the background

The Wings of the Shechinah - The Sculptural Art of Herman Wald exhibition was formally opened at the South African Jewish Museum in Cape Town on 19 February 2012 at 7pm. Over 200 people attended the event which included speeches, music, an exhibition walkabout and a buffet.

Addresses were made by Robert Kaplan - co-founder of the museum, Louis Wald - son of Herman Wald and project director, Hayden Proud - curator, Prof Katherine Munro - motivator for the recent University of the Witwatersrand commissions and Cecil Wulfsohn who read an address by his father Advocate Phillip Wulfsohn - friend of Herman Wald and opener of the last exhibition by the artist in 1970.

The address by Kathy Munro is reproduced below in full. Photographs are by Peter Hassall.

It is a great honour to be a speaker today. We are here to celebrate the work, the legacy and the life of an extraordinary 20th century man, the sculptor and artist, Herman Wald, some 42 years after his death. The story is one of life, love, humanity, loss, pain, survival, migration but also one of new stimuli despite the disrupted history. It is also a story of family, memory and commemoration through three generations. Religious and secular themes inspired his genius. Today, we are seeing the results of many years of work on the part of the Wald brothers, Louis and Michael , to find, research, develop and present again to South Africa the rich body of work left by Herman Wald in his studio. His legacy was over 650 castings.

The objective of Louis and Michael has been to identify, describe and give coherence to a significant body of work. We should also remember the contribution of Herman's late wife Vera, who during the years of her long widowhood worked tirelessly to preserve and keep memory alive. Herman Wald died suddenly and too soon at the age of 64 in 1970. A retrospective exhibition was held in 1976 at the Sladmore gallery in Parktown which was opened by the then Vice Chancellor of the University of the Witwatersrand, Prof G R Bozzoli.

Robert Kaplan addresses the audience

Louis Wald addresses the audience

Hayden Proud with guests

Like many Johannesburg citizens, I first became aware of the work of Herman Wald, when I took pleasure in the cascade of impala, “The Stampede”, the monumental work commissioned by Harry Oppenheimer in memory of his father, Sir Ernest Oppenheimer and given to the city for the Oppenheimer Park located at the rear of the Rissik Street Post office on Joubert Street, Johannesburg. It was (and now is again) a small haven of solitude and delight in the inner city and I lunched in the park with my packed sandwiches when working as a young economist at Barclays International Division. Later the much loved impala were mutilated and partly melted but incredibly the work was recovered and restored by Michal Wald and is today positioned in front of the Anglo American building at 44 Main Street. The Ernest Oppenheimer Park is again a green gem in the city with new works of art by four contemporary artists and perhaps the nicest tribute to Wald is the sculptured group of springbuck ( a group of 14 bokkies) grazing on a plinth.

As a young person, I also knew and admired the powerful biblical “Kria” figure of Moses rending his garments at Sandringham Gardens unveiled in 1957 - it is entitled “Symbol for Chaos and Hope”, and the strength, authority, and the pain are palpable and visible. This work is here with us today ( visible to the audience) and dates from the most productive period of Wald's life in Johannesburg. Wald's work was also to be seen in synagogues - also here on show is the fine wooden choir screen from the Springs synagogue.

Kathy Munro speaking

Cecil Wulfsohn, Jill, Sheila and Robert Kaplan

Gail Altschuler, Sarah, Louis and Rachel Wald

Another recognized and acclaimed work was his Monument to Martyred European Jewry at the Johannesburg, West Park Jewish cemetery. Unveiled in 1959, it is still today the site of annual remembrance of the Holocaust and its impact on so many families.

Wald was also the originator of the design for the three life sized figures for the City of Johannesburg - the Braamfontein fountain located below the Civic Centre, symbolizing the mining roots of the city and mining's dependence on both black and white labour. The design was appropriated by another sculptor and hence it has been wrongly attributed. I drive past this work en route to Wits almost daily.

More recently, I re-engaged with Herman Wald when Louis Wald was introduced to me by Natalie Knight, when I occupied the office of the Dean of the Faculty of Commerce, Law and Management at the University of the Witwatersrand. Louis burst in to my office, with verve and enthusiasm to tell us about the opportunity for Wits to acquire the giant Mining figure - twice life size which Wald had originally presented to Mr Harry Oppenheimer as a model and possibility for the Kimberly commission of a fountain to remember Sir Ernest Oppenheimer. The Oppenheimers chose a different dimension for five figures for the fountain and the original remained through the years in the Wald studio. Hence, it was my delight, when I was able to connect with my colleague, Professor Beatrys Lacquet, Dean of the Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment at Wits and a plan that came together. Funds were raised form donors to cover the cost of casting and the installation and the Wald brothers donated the art work to Wits. Late in 2011 “the Unknown Miner“ was positioned at the entrance of the newly redeveloped Chamber of Mines Engineering building. It faces you and makes a powerful statement as you cross the Amec Deck over the motorway. It beckons you into the engineering world and the Wits West Campus (once the home of the Witwatwatersrand Agricultural Society and its annual Easter exhibition).



Buffet Dessert

There is a rich and symbolic history in that location, for Wits University had its roots in the Kimberley School of Mines established in an ill-timed 1896 in Kimberley, although it was not until 1922 that the University of the Witwatersrand was founded at its new campus at Milner Park. This year is Wits' 90th birthday and one important event on the celebratory calendar will be the unveiling of the Unknown Miner.

We, at Wits also acquired the work of Wald, “Man and his Soul” for the Faculty of Commerce, Law and Management. This work is lyrical modern and abstract , two figures, male and female, touch and grow out of one another within a circle. I fell in love with the picture of what was possible. Louis prepared the maquette; we enthused and then went into the long months of seeing the work cast at the foundry with frequent updates and photographs of the work in progress. It is a large and impressive work and today you can see a smaller bronze version in the exhibition. In November, the large sculpture was installed at the crossroads of University Avenue, and the old Victory Avenue below the iconic Tower of Light and close to sculptures by Paul Stein and Ernest Ullmann. It has a beautiful gold hued finish. We shall celebrate with an unveiling, when we open the old Rembrandt Gallery as a modern Post- graduate Centre for Law students - it is another piece of Johannesburg heritage to be preserved. Wald's work connects to those of other artists of his era such as Moses Kottler, Ernest Ullmann and Lippy Lipschitz.

Spiral Staircase

New Wings in the Old Shul

Temporary Exhibition Galllery

Wald's industry and productivity was prolific and the naturalism shown in the representational figures was accessible and understandable for the then less sophisticated South African public of the 1950s and 60s. His is the strange case of an artist whose work was much loved and appreciated by the public, but whose work was not acquired by the major museums or galleries. He did not leave a comprehensive record of his works. There is no serious study of his work and significance. Wald was a gifted sculptor , who worked in a diverse range of materials and his long years of classical training and labours in Budapest, Vienna, Paris and London underpinned his rich output of his South African years.

Through the efforts of Louis Wald, Michael Wald, much has now been researched and recovered of the life and work of Herman Wald. This retrospective comprises over 50 works ( 3 are monumental), over 40 sketches and drawings, his writings and audiovisual displays. The curator of this exhibition Hayden Proud has prepared an appreciation. The co-founder of the Jewish Museum in Cape Town, Robert Kaplan, has given his full support in bringing this exhibition to life. Cape Town and Johannesburg connect in this exhibition.

The belief of Natalie Knight (Wits West Campus art curator) has been passionate, and meticulous research into the life and work of Wald by Ute Ben Yosef impresses. Elizabeth Rankin, has written a new serious evaluation, contextualizing the work of Herman Wald.

Michael and Louis Wald

Band: Dave Novis, Pete Sklair, Peter Ndlala, Robert Payne

The hurtful neglect of the work of Wald by the art establishment, and the lack of critical reception in the decades after his death should be put aside. We should recall the success of Wald in reaching a wider public through diverse commissions and exhibitions during his lifetime. I believe that we should seize the opportunity presented in this marvelous exhibition. We are able to re-evaluate, to celebrate, and to appreciate the body of Wald's work in sculptures and in drawings. Wald brought his European heritage to his adopted country. He became a South African of note, fame and achievement. His works are his legacy. As Louis commented to me - “ we are simply providing the opportunity for the work to speak for itself” and to reach a wider and more sophisticated audience. Read about Wald and take advantage of the innovative and interactive website - after your time at the exhibition technology allows for further reflection. A catalogue is currently being produced but will only be published in six weeks time,

Meanwhile, take your eyes and your spirit on a journey to feed your soul, as you walk through this exhibition. Enjoy and feel uplifted by this remarkable story of survival, life, creativity, rebirth and rediscovery.

K A Munro


Natalie Knight

Natalie Knight

This is a worthy tribute to the life and work of Herman Wald. Congratulations to all who made it happen. We at Wits are pleased to be part of the recognition of the contribution made by the artist and hope that students and the public will come to see the works. Natalie Knight (Art Curator, Wits West Campus).

Guida Esteves

Congratulations Louis. I'm so pleased to see the culmination of all the effort you, your family and friends put in, celebrated against such a beautiful backdrop. An incredible homage to an artist and parent.

Peter Hassall

Cooooool !!