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PICS: From grain silo to spectacular R500m African art museum

Sep 15 2017 09:00
Carin Smith

Cape Town — After four years the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (Zeitz MOCAA) has been completed at the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town. While the official public opening will be on 22 September, Fin24 was given a sneak preview of the gallery on Friday morning.

Gallery: Please scroll down to the end of the story for the full gallery

The R500m project involved the redevelopment of an almost 100-year-old historic grain silo, which was originally part of an industrial shipping facility in the Cape Town harbour. It later became a disused industrial building.

Now it will house the world’s largest museum dedicated to contemporary art from Africa and its diaspora. The museum will collect, preserve, research and exhibit cutting edge contemporary art from Africa and its diaspora. Zeitz MOCAA has sought to create a contemporary art museum that is easily accessible to South Africans and continental visitors.

The project was conceptualised by the V&A Waterfront, in consultation with London-based Heatherwick Studio and in conjunction with local South African architects. It is a joint not-for-profit partnership between the V&A Waterfront and German business entrepreneur Jochen Zeitz.

Zeitz MOCAA is intended to be an important cultural landmark that contributes to a stronger, wider appreciation of Africa’s cultural heritage.

(Pic: Iwan Baan)

Accessible

According to V&A Waterfront CEO David Green, the vision was to create an accessible, contemporary art museum.

“We recognised the importance art plays in society and the need to showcase the talents of Africa in Africa. It is for these reasons we are so proud to be able to unveil a home that will be not only a powerful platform for the artists but allow locals and international visitors access to great works of art, that will become the legacy of society as a whole,” said Green.

(Pic: Iwan Baan)

Heatherwick Studio founder Thomas Heatherwick explained that the idea of turning a giant disused concrete grain silo made from 116 vertical tubes into a new kind of public space was weird and compelling from the beginning.

"We were excited by the opportunity to unlock this formerly dead structure and transform it into somewhere for people to see and enjoy the most incredible artworks from the continent of Africa," said Heatherwick.

"We are all looking forward to witnessing the impact of the museum’s ambitious artistic programme and the museum taking its pivotal place in the middle of Africa’s cultural infrastructure.”

(Pic: Iwan Baan)

The galleries and the cathedral-like atrium space at the centre of the museum have been literally carved from the silos’ dense cellular structure of forty-two tubes that pack the building. The development includes 6 000m² of exhibition space in 100 galleries, a rooftop sculpture garden, state of the art storage and conservation areas, a bookshop, a restaurant and bar, and various reading rooms.

(Pic: Iwan Baan)

READ: V&A Waterfront project gets R1.5bn boost

New mediums

Zeitz MOCAA is claimed to be the first African institution to acknowledge new mediums through the establishment of different centres and institutes within the overall museum: centres for a costume institute, photography, curatorial excellence, the moving image, performative practice and art education.

(Pic: Iwan Baan)

The museum’s founding art collection, the Zeitz Collection, is on long-term loan, and forms the basis of the extensive art on display at the newly opened museum.

The museum’s "access for all" programme will ensure that no one is ever turned away from the museum due to the inability to afford admission.

(Pic: Iwan Baan)

Visitors under the age of 18 will be allowed free entrance to the museum all year around, with free admission every Wednesday morning for all South Africans and other visitors from the African continent, and half price admission for all on "Late Night Fridays".

(Pic: Iwan Baan)

According to the executive director and chief curator of the museum, Mark Coetzee, the right to cultural participation, and access to the artefacts that represent Africa's diverse cultures, is deeply rooted in human rights.

Fin24's Carin Smith went on a tour on Friday morning. She took these photos...

A piece by William Kentridge (above).

A piece by Nandipha Mntambo (above).

A piece by Kendell Greers (above).

Piece by Sethembile Msezane (above)

A piece by Zanele Muholi (above).

A piece by Marlene Steyn.

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