Cape Town is a city that has become world renown for its exceptional natural beauty, but just outside of the limelight – of which the Cape’s dramatic landscape, patchwork quilt of farmlands and vineyards, and white sandy beaches take the lion’s share – is a vibrant and intoxicating art scene.
Art galleries and museums are popping up all over the Mother City, which also plays host to a huge annual art fair, making Cape Town a vibrant and active epicentre for art; one of the biggest on the continent. So, whether you’re a visitor from distant shores, a culture vulture from the interior, or a local wanting to expand your horizons, here are some of the puzzle pieces, the galleries and attractions, that comprise Cape Town’s thriving art scene.
Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (MOCAA), V&A Waterfront
Zeitz Museum of Contemporary African Art is a brand spanking new addition to the city’s collection of art galleries. Inhabiting six floors and 100,000 square feet of warehouse space in the grain silo district of the V&A Waterfront and designed by British architect Thomas Heatherwick, Zeitz MOCAA is the largest public art space, not just in the country but also on the continent. The museum is named after its German founder Jochem Zeitz whose personal collection features here permanently. The artistic focus at MOCAA is the story of Africa as told through its art (paintings, sculptures and photographs) and is, in fact, the world’s first art museum to exclusively document modern life in Africa.
Where: V&A Waterfront, Silo District, S Arm Road
Cost: R180 per adult
Contact: 087 350 4777
StateoftheART, City Centre
StateoftheART is a boutique “clicks-and-bricks” art gallery, which has heavily integrated their online and bricks-and-mortar offerings, revolutionizing the buying (and selling) process for art aficionados and artists alike. Their website alone – with artwork being sorted into categories by artist, medium, subject, and even price – is structured like no other, making contemporary art easy to buy and far more approachable to new buyers.
StateoftheART has taken a brave, bold step into the 21st Century and is a powerful advocate for carefully selected “home grown” artists, while offering firm guidance to new buyers, irrespective of taste. StateoftheART’s website offers the full gallery experience but if you want to walk in to a physical store to closer inspect their artwork, you’ll find the gallery in a delightful area in the city centre, cheek-by-jowl with other Cape Town cultural gems, including The Book Lounge, District Six Museum, The A4 International Arts Centre, The Fugard Theatre, Haas, and Truth Coffee.
Goodman Gallery, Foreshore
Originally founded in Johannesburg in 1966 by Linda Givon, the Goodman Gallery is a long-standing, successful private art institution in South Africa and one that took a resolute stand against the old Apartheid regime and its doctrines. Throughout this regime, the Goodman Gallery maintained a safe, creative shelter for artists, protecting their freedom of expression in an era marked by oppressive, discriminatory rule.
Today, the Goodman Gallery has spaces in both Johannesburg and Cape Town, in which the works by established and new contemporary artists are proudly represented. It has also continued its tradition of protecting artists’ freedom of expression when, in 2012, the Johannesburg gallery made news headlines by famously displaying “The Spear” – a painting by artist Brett Murray of an exposed President Zuma in the style of Lenin.
Where: 3rd Floor, Fairweather House, 176 Sir Lowry Road, Foreshore
Contact: 021 462 7573
Stevenson Art Gallery, Woodstock
Opened in 2003 in Woodstock (a fast-evolving, trendy, historic neighbourhood in Cape Town), the Stevenson Art Gallery is a celebration of high-end contemporary art from all over Africa. The Stevenson also has an active international exhibition programme, participating in several shows and art fairs all over the world, including the Art Basel Miami Beach, Frieze London, Frieze New York, and Paris Photo. The focus of these exhibits is South Africa, Africa, and its diaspora, while also bringing the work of artists such as Glenn Ligon, Thomas Hirschhorn, Francis Alÿs, Walid Raad, and Rineke Dijkstra to our shores, often for the first time.
Artvark Gallery, Kalk Bay
Kalk Bay is in itself an attraction, but add a visit to the Artvark Gallery to your itinerary and you can add culture to your bucket list of history, good food, natural beauty, harbour exploration, and antique shopping. The Artvark Gallery exhibits a wide variety of classic and contemporary art and handcrafted works, from paintings, prints, and drawings to jewellery, textiles, ceramics, and unique steel works. They also have the Courtyard Café – where visitors can get a bite to eat and/or a coffee – and charming views, making this little gem of a gallery a fantastic place to stop and soak up some culture.
Barnard Gallery, Newlands
Open since 2010 in the green and pretty suburb of Newlands, Barnard Gallery is home to a small yet distinguished cluster of contemporary (award-winning) artists, such as Ndikhumbule Ngqinamb, Lien Botha, Virginia MacKenny, Alexia Vogel, Sarah Biggs, Ryan Hewett, Richard Mudariki, Robyn Penn, Katherine Spindler, and Jaco van Schalkwyk, and more. The Barnard Gallery was named after its director and founder, Christiaan Barnard, whose goal it is to showcase the work of emerging talents, as well as established artists. The Barnard Gallery has a solid reputation for its diverse and thoughtfully curated group exhibitions, as well as its highly successful solo shows, earning it an entrenched space in Cape Town’s art scene.
Worldart, City Centre
Worldart pays homage to the adage “dynamite comes in small packages”. This little gallery (with a huge heart) is located on the charming and historic Church Street in central Cape Town. Launched in 2004 by art aficionado Charl Bezuidenhout, Worldart features new, forward-thinking work by emerging artists such as internationally acclaimed street artist Kilmany-Jo Liversage, stencil and oil artist Khaya Witbooi, and abstract portrait artist Dion Cupido. Worldart is essentially an ode to the love and passion of its founder, Bezuidenhout, and offers visitors the opportunity to immerse themselves in evocative and beautiful South African art.
What if the World Gallery, Woodstock
Located in a decommissioned synagogue in the trendy neighbourhood of Woodstock, What if the World Gallery was founded in 2008 as a forum for young contemporary South African artists who wished to veer off the beaten path and explore new, exciting avenues of expression. Some of the featured artists that have been showcased by What if the World Gallery – Julia Rosa Clark, Pierre Fouche, Dan Halter, Daniella Mooney, John Murray, Cameron Platter, Athi-Patra Ruga, Lyndi Sales, Rowan Smith and Michael Taylor – have gone on to shape and transform the artistic landscape here in South Africa. The gallery also regularly participates in international art exhibits and fairs, including VOLTA in Basel, Switzerland, Frieze New York, the 55th Venice Biennial, and Guangzhou Triennial Guangzhou, China.
Smith Studio, City Centre
Also located on Cape Town’s charming cobbled Church Street is the Smith Studio, the stunning architecture of which makes it worth the visit alone. This recently restored, high ceilinged art space is actually a 230-year-old heritage site that showcases work by a number of South Africa’s most talented emerging contemporary artists. High on the Smith Studio’s agenda is to nurture the relationship between collectors and artists, to source and encourage rare skill from unexpected sources, and, overall, to promote conversations in contemporary art in our country.
The Cape Town Art Fair 2018
Once a year, usually at the beginning of the year, the Cape Town International Convention Centre (CTICC) becomes the largest epicentre for art on the continent. The Cape Town Art Fair (16th to 18th February 2018) is now in its 6th year running and features an incredible diversity of artwork that paints a comprehensive picture of contemporary art in Africa. Being a location of stunning natural and cultural beauty, Cape Town is the ideal host for such a celebration and welcomes art world professionals, artists, and collectors from all over the country, continent, and the world. In addition to the exhibits, the Cape Town Art Fair features guided tours, screenings, talks, and performances all within the realm of contemporary art.
On the first Thursday of every month, Cape Town’s cultural hubs, art galleries, and museums throw open their doors to the public (usually with admission fees waived) and stay open until 21:00, if not later. The concept behind the aptly named First Thursdays is to encourage locals and visitors to experience Cape Town’s exceptional art scene (events, performances, exhibits) by foot. The summer dates for First Thursdays are 7th December 2017, 4th January 2018, and 1st February 2018. It’s a fantastic opportunity for friends to get together, go for a meal at one of Cape Town’s numerous eateries, and then hit the streets to explore the city’s immense cultural wealth.