South Africa offers a wealth of venues that speak to the artsy travelers on your client list.
When it opened in September 2017 on the V&A Waterfront, Zeitz MOCAA (the largest contemporary art museum in Africa), put Cape Town on the international art world’s map, shining a stylish light on a city better known for its natural beauty and outdoor pursuits. However, the opening of Zeitz MOCAA was only the beginning. Two months later, Cape Town became the first city in Africa to be named a UNESCO City of Design and a mere five months after that, in April 2018, the 10,000-sq.-ft. Norval Foundation,on the bucolic Steenberg Estate, showcasing contemporary South African art, as well as work by international artists, opened.
The Norval Foundation, which is open to the public and includes not only galleries but a library, a sculpture garden, a nature reserve, an outdoor amphitheater for concerts, and the hip Skotnes Restaurant & Bar, is financed entirely by South African property investor and art collector Louis Norval. Set in Steenberg, next to Table Mountain National Park, the modern glassy building faces the surrounding wetland and mountains, which are equally as enticing as the art itself. With works by notable artists Irma Stern, Sydney Kumalo, Gerard Sekoto, and Eduardo Villa, the collection is a welcome addition to the exploding art scene in Cape Town.
Be sure to book Cape Town-bound art lovers at Delaire Graff Estate in Stellenbosch, an art destination in its own right. Not only does the Cape Dutch-styled Delaire Graff offer award-winning wine and luxury accommodations in a beautiful mountain setting, it is home to owner Laurence Graf’s personal art collection, which includes some of South Africa’s most renowned contemporary artists including sculptor Dylan Lewis whose bronze cheetahs grace the Estate’s sprawling gardens. Closer to Cape Town city-center in Bantry Bay, Ellerman House is another ideal hotel for art aficionados, where fine art from over two centuries lines the walls. Guests can take a private tour of the collection with the hotel’s dedicated art guide, who also offers gallery tours throughout Cape Town.
While Cape Town and Johannesburg get the lion’s share of attention, the port of Durban, mainly known as a surf town, has come into its own in recent years as a cultural hub. “Durbs,” as the locals call it, is experiencing a renaissance, particularly in the emerging Station Drive Precinct, near the city’s railroad station, where a collection of old warehouses have been transformed into jewelry designers, antiques shops, bespoke dress boutiques, and street side cafes—even a craft brewery and gin distillery. The first Thursday evening of every month, Station Drive is the setting for live music, refreshments, and a neighborhood gallery walk.
Longtime Durbanite Andrew Rall, founder of Distillery 031 in the Station Drive Precinct, recommends the KwaZulu Natal Society of the Arts in the Durban neighborhood of Glenwood, calling it Durban’s best-curated and most interesting independent art gallery. Also in Glenwood, The Phansi Museum has an incredible collection of historical African art, Rall says. Others worth visiting are the African Art Centre in Station Drive and Elizabeth Gordon Gallery in Morningside.
Outside Durban in Howick is The Capture Site, located in a converted shed, which tells the story of former South African President Nelson Mandela’s life with historical photographs and footage. The highlight of the Capture Site is a large-scale outdoor sculpture by Johannesburg artist Marco Cianfanelli, constructed from 50 steel laser-cut columns which form an image of Mandela when viewed at the correct angle.
Culture vultures visiting Durban should stay at the Oyster Box hotel on the upscale Umhlanga beachfront, 15 minutes north of downtown Durban. Dating from 1863 but reopened in 2009 after a multimillion-dollar renovation by Red Carnation Group, the 86-room hotel displays African art from the hotel’s 741-piece collection on its many walls; there are two swimming pools, a library with a telescope, a 24-seat movie theater, and a rooftop bar with views of the Indian Ocean coastline.
Farther north in Johannesburg, the upscale neighborhood of Rosebank is where the buzz is, with its burgeoning enclave known as the Keyes Art Mile. This new art and design hub encompasses a swanky strip of shops—dotted with lush greenery and outdoor benches—with upscale jewelry and clothing stores, all anchored by Circa contemporary gallery and Everard Read, the oldest art gallery in South Africa and widely considered the best, with many international clients and satellite galleries in London and Cape Town. Also here is Marble, one of the African continent’s best restaurants. With its open-plan kitchen, award-winning chef David Higgs and sweeping top-floor views of the city all the way to Magaliesburg, Marble has become more of a destination than a restaurant, prominently showcasing local artists on the walls and offering an extensive craft cocktail menu. Down on the ground, cutting-edge South African design store Anatomy and the eye-catching True Design showcase iconic designs by brands like Kartell and Cassina, which produces classics by modernist masters such as Le Corbusier. Leathersmith Missibaba is also here, among other shops, with locally made handbags inspired by British owner Chloe Townsend’s international travels.
Every Saturday, the Keyes Art Mile, holds “Art & Design Saturdays” with talks and workshops featuring local artists and architects. They also host a farmer’s market the last Saturday of every month and themed gallery walks throughout the month.
The Saxon Hotel, Villas and Spa in tree-lined Sandhurst is a sure bet for art aficionados overnighting in Johannesburg. The hotel has a long history of supporting emerging South African artists—its walls are brought to life with art and artifacts from across the continent. The art collection of the original home, which belonged to insurance magnate Douw Steyn, is included in the hotel’s collection, which has sourced more than 200 original artworks from various South African artists, representing the largest single corporate art acquisition made in South Africa for interior design purposes.
For more information, visit South African Tourism at southafrica.net/gl/en/trade/category/travel-trade-news.