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Wet-Paint: Social-Distancing Art Benches Leave A Legacy

Eight public benches which were the focus of an artistic experiment in social distancing in Johannesburg last month, will now be leaving a legacy following their donation to the Johannesburg Botanical Gardens by Stella Artois.

The benches had originally been part of a project in which award-winning artist and designer Baba Tjeko, and art director, designer and illustrator, Lauren Colin Mitchell (aka Curious Lauren) painted unique murals in the middle of each. Along with hand-drawn “wet paint” signs, the benches were then placed in high foot traffic areas around Johannesburg to see how the public would react to them when used.

In the process, the benches inspired people to unwittingly be together, yet apart, creating talkability around an issue that remains important to all South Africans as we’re besieged by a second wave of Covid-19. A phenomenal success, a mini documentary on the project was also released online and documented people’s change in behaviour as they utilized the benches in a manner that was socially responsible without being anti-social.

“The benches themselves are high end, one-of-a-kind art pieces and, in donating them to the Johannesburg Botanical Gardens, their longevity is ensured. They will add value by not only providing an attraction for art lovers but afford visitors the opportunity to enjoy the beauty of the gardens in a socially responsible manner,” says Marsha Kumire, Brand Director: High End Africa.

The Johannesburg Botanical Gardens in Emmarentia has one of the finest plant collections in the world, including over 30,000 indigenous trees as well as succulents and a collection of traditional African medicinal herbs. “With Covid-19 cases still on the rise and the new public gathering restrictions announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa, this gift of stunning public furniture art is a timely reminder of how we as South Africans can still enjoy the outdoors responsibly. The benches will make a beautiful addition to our extraordinary, much-loved botanical gardens,” says Sandra Viljoen, Manager: Botanical Gardens & Wilds.