Yesterday, the Norval Foundation opened its doors to the public for the first time.
Director Elana Brundyn said the aesthetic of the building complemented the beauty of the Steenberg wetlands where the facility is situated.
“The building looks very hard and grey from the outside but it floats into nature and is quite linear. It’s a beautiful space and it’s the way it’s considered that draws me to it.”
The facilities feature purpose-built galleries, sculpture garden, outdoor amphitheatre, research library, restaurant and bar, shop and children’s playground with work from the 20th and 21st centuries covering modern and contemporary art.
Property magnate Louis Norval began the foundation and the building houses the family’s collection. The Norvals want art to be as accessible to the general public as possible. The proceeds from capital donations will be used to secure the foundation for future generations.
Opening exhibitions include work by Sydney Kumalo, Ezrom Lagae and Edoardo Villa. The work by Kumalo and Lagae covers a series of bronzes and drawings that tell the story of their innovative artistic practices.
Villa’s takes a look at his work over a 10-year period from 1958 to 1968 and focuses on his immense sculpture, Africa, which he produced in 1959.
“With Sydney Kumalo, you can see how his work developed because we have a timeline of his life and work from different periods. You can see his deep love of Africa in his animal sculptures, which haven’t been housed indoors since 1960,” she said.
The collection also includes work by Deborah Bell, Peter Clarke, Dumile Feni, Maggie Laubser, Trevor Makhoba, John Muafanejo, George Pemba, Alexis Preller, Gerard Sekoto, Irma Stern, Anton van Wouw and Cecil Stokes, after whom the restaurant is named.
Brundyn said the institution would look to have 80% of its works coming from African artists, with the aim of having two major exhibitions a year and between four and six smaller ones to accompany them.
“The focus will be Africa. We didn’t have big institutions on the continent for 100-odd years and it’s been a slow, steady rise to get them. But we see reality and that dictates that we view the world globally and have those international pieces.”
Brundyn wants the Norval Foundation to be a multi-sensory artistic experience that includes performance art as part of the institution’s offerings.
“We have a beautiful amphitheatre for music and cultural events. We want to have singers and musicians perform like Jay-Z did with Marina Abramovic. I love that sort of thing.”
The foundation has also invested in education by reaching out to schools across the province to encourage pupils interested in art, and has also taken the decision to allow all patrons under 18 to have free entrance to the galleries.
Entry will also be free on Monday for all patrons.