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Revitalising art in the Mother City

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Revitalising art in the Mother City

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Opened in September last year and located at the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town, the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (MOCAA) has the distinction of being the largest museum of its kind in the world. Commissioned through a strategic alliance between the V&A and German businessman and art collector Jochen Zeitz, the museum spans almost 10 000 square metres across nine floors.

Of Interest Taking four years at an estimated R 500 million to build, the museum is testament to what can be achieved through the redevelopment of existing space to revitalise an area of a city. Taking a 100-year-old historic grain silo and converting it into a state-of-the-art (excuse the pun) museum is no mean feat but it shows the benefits to be had from public-private partnerships.

London-based Heatherwick Studio, whose work includes the London 2012 Olympic Cauldron and the redevelopment of the 640 000 square metre Pacific Palace complex in the centre of Hong Kong, was tasked to reimagine the Grain Silo Complex with an architectural intervention inspired by its own historic character.

“Thomas Heatherwick understood how to interpret the industrial narrative of the building, and this was the breakthrough. His design respects the heritage of the building while bringing iconic design and purpose to the building. Under his mentorship as lead designer, local partners gained not only experience but also insights and knowledge sharing,” says David Green, CEO of the V&A Waterfront.

 

Accessibility above all

Considered the most extensive and representative collection of contemporary art from Africa, the Zeitz Collection has been gifted in perpetuity by Zeitz to this non-profit institution.

This not-for-profit art museum features more than 100 galleries dedicated to a cutting-edge permanent collection, temporary exhibitions, and Centres for Art Education, Curatorial Excellence, Performance Practice, Photography, the Moving Image, and the Costume Institute.

The significance (and relevance) of the museum is evident by its impressive visitor numbers. In its opening month, Zeitz MOCAA saw more than 70 000 visitors through the doors of which in excess of 35 000 were free entrants.

It is this focus on making the museum and its art open to as many people as possible that is part of its driving force. In fact, access for all is one of the primary principles of the museum.

Says executive director and chief curator Mark Coetzee, “as the most visited art museum in Africa, we are thrilled that our local audience, and visitors from across Africa, have embraced Zeitz MOCAA. We are excited to continue to serve our community into the future and to guarantee access for all.”

 

An experience with a difference

December saw the opening of Zeitz MOCAA Food, an eatery space on Level 6 of the museum that can accommodate up to 200 guests and provides a 270-degree view of Cape Town, including what some consider to be the best view of Table Mountain in the city. The space also looks out onto the museum’s rooftop sculpture garden. Food is inspired by local ingredients and South African flavours and is SASSI and Halaal-friendly.

The museum also features a pop-up shop that showcases a selection of art-led contemporary design, books, prints, stationery, gifts, jewellery and fashion by leading design companies. It provides visitors with a taste of what to expect from the upcoming Museum Shop with special launch editions and exclusive Zeitz MOCAA designs. From souvenirs to beautiful gifts, affordable treasures to unique collectables, there is something for everyone and every pocket.

Audio walks

The museum also features AfriSam Audio Tours, a self-guided audio tour that unveils unique stories about its collection and architecture. The tours feature diverse commentaries from leading artists, curators, architects, designers and visionaries to enrich visitors’ experience.

The audio tours are available in three different journeys targeted at adults, children, and those interested in the museum’s architecture. Initially available in English, the tours will be expanded to three local languages (isiXhosa, isiZulu and Afrikaans) to accommodate a diverse audience.

Each of the three tours will have approximately 20 stops that will give bite-sized insights into the visual presentation that viewers are encountering. The common stops that will feature in all three of the tours include the BMW Atrium (a central feature of the museum); the Sculpture Garden (featuring both artists and architectural elements); and the Centre for the Moving Image, which also features artistic interventions and interesting architectural stories.

Zeitz MOCAA provides free entrance for under-18s daily, as well as people from all African nations on Wednesday mornings from 10:00 to 13:00. Additionally, it offers free entrance for everyone on Museum Nights from 17:00 to 22:00 and half-price entry on late-night First Fridays every month from 16:00 to 21:00.

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