Who is Marco Cianfanelli?

By Alex Dodd and Gillian Anstey

Artist Marco Cianfanelli is fascinated by the act of romanticising space and what the inverse effect of that act might be.

Although he enrolled at the Fine Arts Department at the University of the Witwatersrand in the late Eighties as a painter, Marco Cianfanelli (pronounced Chun-fa-nel-li) quickly evolved into a formal heretic whose work has embodied a huge variety of media and materials, from burnt mielie skins, to branded animal hides, mosaics, works in concrete, sculpted sea sand, video, paining, laser cut paper and metal, masked glass and digital imaging. "I get a kick out of taking applications and using them for a different functions," he says.

Although many associate his name with the hauntingly monochromatic white laser cut work that won him the prestigious Absa Atelier Award back in 2002, Cianfanelli is a one of a handful of South African artists whose work successfully spans the public and domestic sphere.

As a public artist, he designed the steel sculpture and mosaics that now adorn the Hollard Street Mall in downtown Johannesburg, the huge mosaic artwork at MTN's head office and the fountain installation at the University of Johannesburg's new art centre.

In 2005 his joint submission (with Jeremy Rose of Mashabane Rose architects, famed for their work on the Apartheid Museum) into the Nelson Mandela Bay Statue of Freedom Competition made it to the final shortlist. He is also part of the multi-disciplinary team tasked with conceptualising and designing the monumental public space at Freedom Park, just outside of Pretoria, rated by President Thabo Mbeki as democratic South Africa's most ambitious project yet.
I get a kick out of taking applications and using them for different functions.

He recently completed a commission for the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls at Henley-on-Klip in Meyerton, south of Johannesburg.

37 Years of Gold, the large scale sculpture that formed the centrepiece of his 2006 Aardklop solo, was recently acquired for AngloGold Ashanti's new corporate offices in the revamped Turbine Hall in Newtown.

Cianfanelli's slick, pared-down, iconographic works are intricately linked with the complexity of loving South Africa. He began his career painting landscapes and continues to be concerned with romanticised space and its inverse - that which is marginalised through the very act of romanticising.

Cianfanelli was born (to Italian immigrant parents) and bred in South Africa. He likes to "bastardise" his materials, whether "painting" digitally, making oil paintings and then branding them, digitally manipulating photographs to evoke a sense of nostalgia for the South African landscape or branding animal hides with Italian Renaissance architectural patterns or geometric grids.

back to the Raymond Dart memorial page

"I stood in the shade holding the brain as greedily as any miser hugs his gold."
Raymond Dart
Raymond Dart
Picture: © SA National Library, Cape Town


In this lesson plan, learners will become familiar with the story of Raymond Dart's defiance of accepted "scientific" wisdom. Very few people believed what Dart had to say. For 25 years he was ridiculed by many other scientists. But in the end he was proved right. It turned out that the other scientists had been taken in by a fraud! It's vital to be aware of how prejudice can cause us to make errors even when we think we are being scientific.

Lesson plan
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Raymond Dart - Adventures with the missing link
Images from the long life and career of Raymond Dart
Audio extract of interview with Raymond Dart
An extract from a Springbok Radio interview with Raymond Dart, broadcast in February 1969
Raymond Dart and the Missing Link
In 1924, Raymond Dart discovered proof that humankind began in Africa. SABC’s famous newsreel, African Mirror, reports on this seminal event in its coverage of the 1963 Man in Africa exhibition, which detailed the history of humans, from prehistoric tim
Audio Slideshow