Art guru sows seed at V&A site

By Anél Lewis Time of article published Nov 22, 2013

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Cape Town - The V&A Waterfront is pumping R500-million into the conversion of one of its historic buildings which, once completed, will be the continent’s first contemporary African art museum.

The museum, to be known as the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary African Art, or Zeitz MOCAA, will be housed in the Grain Silo building.

It will take 30 months to build and will be on a par with art museums such as the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao in Spain and Sydney Museum of Contemporary Art, say those behind the initiative.

“We believe in the power of the innovative and creative industries of Africa,” said David Green, chief executive of the Waterfront.

“We see this as an important new offering in the V&A Waterfront to showcase the best of Africa. It will add a cultural dimension…”

The project is a collaboration between the Waterfront and business entrepreneur Jochen Zeitz, who has offered what is considered the leading collection of African contemporary art to the museum in perpetuity.

Zeitz will also underwrite the running costs of the museum and ensure the museum has the funds it needs to acquire new and important artworks.

“After considering many cities across Africa, I am excited to partner with the V&A Waterfront… It is an iconic location in an iconic city, and will be situated in a historic landmark building. This will make my collection accessible to a local, national, continental and international audience.”

Green said: “This is a unique public/private partnership in South Africa that will additionally breathe life into the silo district and act as a drawcard to a venture that is non-commercial in nature and is designed specifically for the enjoyment of all the continent’s citizens.”

The Waterfront has reported a contribution of R198-billion to the economy in the past 10 years and is viewed as a significant creator of direct and indirect jobs. Green said this project would also provide employment.

Green said the historic grain silo building had “real soul” and an almost cathedral-like quality that would add to the appeal of the museum. The redevelopment of the silo district forms part of the Waterfront’s long-term expansion that will include mixed-use residential, commercial and leisure developments.

The architect responsible for transforming the building will be announced next year. And while the silo would serve to house cutting-edge African art, it would also operate as a grain silo for fixed periods.

At an impressive 57m tall, the building offers nine storeys of space. Two-thirds of this will be used for art exhibitions, while one floor will be dedicated to education. Curator Mark Coetzee said the top would display a sculpture garden.

The Zeitz collection will be on display at a temporary exhibition space at the Waterfront, to be known as the Zeitz MOCAA Pavilion, for the next three years. The work of Swazi artist Nandipha Mntambo is the inaugural exhibition which opens on Saturday. - Cape Argus

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