There’s no denying that the Cape Winelands is home to exceptional art as well as premium wines. MELVYN MINNAAR provides a round-up of galleries and shows to visit this summer.
ART AND WINE are joined in the matrix of the mind and the senses. For seasonal visitors to the Cape Winelands, not to mention locals who are already in the know, exploring museums and galleries is the natural adjunct to the enjoyment of exploring the region’s wines. Of course, the bright, long, light‑filled summer days make comfortable, short‑sleeved encounters with visual talent an easy and fulfilling pleasure.
In most cases this is entertainment without an entrance ticket – or for only the price of a good glass of wine.
The Cape Winelands are blessed with many art galleries, some formal, others convenient add‑ons to wine estates’ main business of punting their produce over the tasting counter. But the intrepid art lover will also know that, for the tourist, the official spaces of art – the galleries and museums – are destinations in themselves, rewarding, challenging and, well, entertaining.
So here, to charge up an arty itinerary, are a few art hotspots on the wider Winelands tourism map, taking Stellenbosch as a hub.
Starting on home ground with a happy art experience is always a sensible idea. So put the Stellenbosch University Museum in Ryneveld Street and the institution’s often vivacious GUS Gallery, on the corner of Bird and Dorp, on the route.
Of course, art personality Ilse Schermers‑Schneider’s IS Art Gallery is right next door and so is the ever‑professional SMAC. Among the many cheerful tourist‑orientated galleries up and down the precinct, they provide cultural entertainment with gravitas.
A day in Stellenbosch will be lost if it doesn’t include a visit to the Rupert Museum.
The Abstract show in which South African modernists echo the famous macro photographs by Oscar Forel, is kaleidoscopic visual fun. Then, of course, there is the pop‑ art pleasure of the Pierneef station panels.
At the revamped Blaauwklippen, a new art space has come alive. Up the hill, Tokara has managed for a while a marvellous mix of wine, food, olives and smashing art. Long‑supportive of sculpture, the estate presents a holiday show called Female Form with noted local artists.
The Banhoek road will take you past the chic classicism of Boschendal, where the manor house sports a summer show of modern art that includes works by Cameron Platter, Gabriella Kruger, Hanna Noor Mahomed and William Kentridge.
From here you may be lured further along to Simondium and Glen Carlou, where the original architecture includes an impressive and well‑used art space. Don’t miss Alex Hamilton’s delightful solo show, The History of the Accidental Green Finger, or the group exhibition Zoo/Animalia. Franschhoek, with its finely tuned tourism smarts, can be a cultural allure all by itself. Along this route there is the Everard Read’s space at Leeu Estates and in town, both with special summer group shows.
In January the acclaimed festival artist Liza Grobler, in residence, will have new work at the Leeu facility.
The main art adventure during the high heat of summer in the Cape is the Investec Cape Town Art Fair, taking place from 16 to 18 February. A world-class gathering of famous gallerists and their art and artists, it is a cultural experience without equal.The 11th ICTAF Is Unbound
Each year an overarching theme pulls it all together, influencing selections (for the three curated parts Tomorrows/Today, Solo and Generations) and the subsections (main, Alt, Editions, Publications and Connect). In 2024 the theme is ‘Unbound’.
“What,” you may well ask, “does it mean to be unbound?” According to the organisers, “The fair takes as its starting point the boundless imagination and limitless potential of art to inspire and challenge.”
Ebony gallery prides itself on classy art and at Bordeaux House Karen Elkington’s paintings will be followed by Stanislaw Trzebinski’s great sculptures.
Karen Elkington’s paintings at Ebony in Franschhoek – ‘Fired Earth 2023’.
If the day trip takes you in another direction, there is the chic Cavalli estate on the R44 where the group show I Never Promised You a Rose Garden is geared to illustrate the interaction between art and the natural world. It’s a visual delight.
At nearby Blaauwklippen Wine Estate, Ilse Schermers has opened a new gallery that shows contemporary South African art and sculpture.
A tad further from Stellenbosch, if your base is there, a day trip may take you to the pretty town of Riebeek‑Kasteel. Among its many artists’ studios and galleries, you’ll find the RK Contemporary, which is currently hosting a group salon‑style summer show with Small Miracles.
Longer on the road, beyond Tulbagh, there is the Saronsberg wine estate’s superb private art collection to admire and the 300‑year‑old Twee Jonge Gezellen Estate where contemporary treats of art are hosted in the old, atmospheric cellar.
Heading towards Cape Town, you may pop in at the wonderful Rust‑en‑Vrede Gallery in Durbanville and, in Bellville’s main drag, the impressive Sanlam Art Collection.
On to the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront, where the imposing Zeitz MOCAA is a centrepiece for viewing visitors. One of the city’s main public art museums, the building is in itself an artwork.
The holiday period calendar features a hive of things to be seen and learned, including experiencing the work of the institution’s current artist in residence, Unathi Mkonto. This atelier is titled To Let. Other interesting exhibitions are Past Disquiet and Seismography of Struggle.
Nearby, in Silo 5, is the increasingly renowned Southern Guild space. A hive of African artistic activity, the festive season time includes exhibitions by Manyaku Mashilo, Okuseye (Black Exodus), Rich Mnisi and Justine Mahoney.
Around the corner is the main Everard Read gallery with group and solo shows by Neill Wright and Lady Skollie.The Circa space will feature Gerhard Marx in February 2024.
Into the city the art adventurer goes, heading first for the Company Gardens where the grande dame of South African art, the century‑old National Gallery, administered by Iziko Museums, houses old and new masterpieces and mixes them engagingly with the modern. A special show, starting in February, will be a retrospective of the uniquely bright imagery of the legendary Esther Mahlangu.
Of course, the Iziko South African Museum next door is a must for all members of the family. A wonderful emergent installation is the new Humanity project, which sets out to reimagine the story of human evolution – a superb experience.
As a world‑class city, central Cape Town boasts many contemporary galleries that cater to a wide variety of tastes, ranging from the easy‑on‑the‑eye to the more pushy and pricey. The AVA Gallery is an envelope‑ pushing non‑profit space in Church Street that is always worth spending time at, and no art visitors will want to miss Stevenson, Whatiftheworld and Blank Projects, all big‑deal spaces for top artists.
Stevenson has a special exhibition, titled The Artist List, which celebrates 20 years in the business with a group show of all the artists on its books. Then, in time for the Cape Town Art Fair, it will host a solo show by Mawande Ka Zenzile.
Blank Projects will spotlight the remarkable work of Dineo Bopape, followed by works on canvas by Asemahle Ntlonti. Whatiftheworld is showcasing the work of the marvellous Paul Edmunds, smart Rowan Smith and clever Chris Soal.
Keeping the Winelands connection will, inevitably, take the culture mission to that other suburb of vineyards, Constantia. Nestling among those prime vines is the gorgeous Norval Foundation building, notable for its architecture and garden. The exhibition spaces spotlight Alexis Preller and Cinga Samson during the hot season, and in February the prestige Norval Sovereign African Art Prize Finalists exhibition will open.
Oh, and talking of gardens, a visit to the one that the famous Irma Stern nurtured in Rosebank will also include a walk around her former house, now one of Cape Town’s finest museums.