Celebrating African Art

Wealthy South African opens Cape Town museum

BY ROBIN CHERRY — Fall 2018

n Cape Town, South Africa, the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (MOCAA) opened to international fanfare last September. Now, yet another new museum ratchets up the city’s growing reputation as an arts center: In the Steenberg area, adjacent to Table Mountain National Park, the Norval Foundation art museum opened in April showcasing the Homestead Collection, contemporary African works owned by property magnate Louis Norval and his family.

What you’ll see: Norval has been collecting art for more than two decades and owns the entire Bruce Campbell Smith Collection (more than 450 works by emerging modern black artists from the 1920s to the present), as well as the archives of groundbreaking artists such as painter Alexis Preller. The museum also features works by Gerard Sekoto, considered the pioneer of urban black art; sculptor Edoardo Villa; and the Amadlozi Group, a multiracial collective that developed a uniquely African modernism influenced by indigenous cultures. The foundation will not have a permanent display but will host two major exhibitions and four to six smaller shows each year featuring pieces from both Norval’s collection and other collectors.

Outdoor display: Art and nature complement each other in a 10-acre sculpture garden surrounded by mountains and indigenous flora.

Performance art: Unlike many private museums, the foundation also focuses on performance art and hired a performance art curator, Khanyisile Mbongwa. An award-winning performance and installation artist, Mbongwa is known for championing provocative dance, music, and performative installations that explore South Africa’s sociopolitical and socioeconomic landscape.

Environmental consciousness: Architects designed the 130,000-square-foot building to limit its environmental impact, a Norval passion. More than 150 rooftop solar panels power the building and a grey-water purification system limits the museum’s reliance on municipal water, important in a city with water concerns. The surrounding wetlands are breeding grounds for the endangered Western leopard toad, so tunnels built under the road the museum fronts ensure they can access the land.

A museum for all: To help make the art accessible to everyone, the foundation charges no admission fee on Mondays, and admits children under 18 free daily.

At mealtime: The Skotnes Restaurant, named for artist and teacher Cecil Skotnes, serves classical South African cuisine made with ingredients from local, small-batch producers. Try the grilled calamari served with chakalaka, a spicy vegetable relish. norvalfoundation.org

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