UR­BAN EYRIE Perched on top of the Ever­ard Read gallery in Joburg, the Rose­bank re­treat of two art col­lec­tors and gal­lerists gives new mean­ing to ‘liv­ing above the shop’

In the HEART OF Joburg’s ART PRECINCT, PERCHED on top of the EVER­ARD READ GALLERY, is the home of art col­lec­tors and GAL­LERISTS Chris­tine and Mark Read

House and Leisure (South Africa) - - Contents - TEXT ZODWA KU­MALO PHO­TO­GRAPHS ELSA YOUNG

One gath­ers knowl­edge, in­tu­ition and cre­ative spirit as one goes. If I could go back, I def­i­nitely would have be­come a land­scape ar­chi­tect, be­cause that’s where my real en­er­getic pas­sion sits,’ says Chris­tine Read about de­sign­ing and build­ing her home.

The Rose­bank, Johannesburg, abode that she shares with gal­lerist hus­band Mark Read (Ever­ard Read and CIRCA) and their daugh­ters was brought to life after an 18-month build over­seen by Chris­tine and ar­chi­tects Sil­vio Rech and Les­ley Carstens. ‘I saw a pic­ture in a magazine a while ago, tore it out and kept it,’ she says. ‘I didn’t want a large prop­erty – with two grown chil­dren, I wanted some­thing pri­vate and self-con­tained.’

Chris­tine points to the piece of land across Jel­li­coe Av­enue – and what looks like the con­struc­tion site of a park­ing lot – that she and Mark bought and then sold to art col­lec­tor and prop­erty devel­oper An­ton Tal­jaard, be­cause the plans she had de­signed were not in keep­ing with the vi­sion in her head. ‘I didn’t want to be on the ground,’ she says. ‘ I wanted to be el­e­vated and also re­moved some­how.’

The prop­erty across the road is now be­ing de­vel­oped into a re­tail space com­plete with a pri­vate art mu­seum and pent­house suites. Hid­den by fo­liage, it is just vis­i­ble from the court­yard of the Reads’ home, the rooftop lo­ca­tion that re­quired Chris­tine to do some con­vinc­ing. One evening, glass of wine in hand, she took Mark up to the gallery roof and shared with him her vi­sion of build­ing their home there. And when she showed that magazine pic­ture of the seem­ingly ran­dom prop­erty that had in­spired her to Rech and Carstens, it turned out they had de­signed it.

‘The whole house sits on a steel frame that’s like a gi­ant skele­ton, and then ev­ery­thing was de­signed around it,’ says Chris­tine. ‘First the stone wall went in and then the ceil­ing and the floor­ing, which is a mesh of steel grid­work, and then the thick Cana­dian oak beams went onto the floor, then the re-en­gi­neered wood onto the walls. The glass went in last.’

The home feels rather like a mu­seum lo­cated inside a tented camp, straight out of a lux­u­ri­ous bush lodge.

The art and col­lectibles – such as stone tools and seeds – that cover the walls and sur­faces speak to Mark and Chris­tine’s shared in­ter­est in the his­tory of African land­scapes, her­itages and cul­tures. De­spite the plethora of found ob­jects, ev­ery­thing seems to have its place – from the col­lec­tion of worn straw hats to the Deb­o­rah Bell sculp­tures, the works of Col­bert Mashile and Bless­ing Ngobeni, brass lamps, and shelves of books about birds, plants, or­chids and Per­sian rugs. Here, the mod­ern and the an­cient live com­fort­ably to­gether.

Chris­tine wanted her home to be a contemporary space hous­ing all her vin­tage finds, shaped by her stud­ies in zo­ol­ogy, or­nithol­ogy, pa­le­oan­thro­pol­ogy, early hu­mans and the land. These are some of the pas­sions shared by the cou­ple, who have been mar­ried for 33 years.

The court­yard gar­den is purely in­dige­nous and fea­tures suc­cu­lents and aloe species, aca­cias and olive trees, cho­sen specif­i­cally for their har­di­ness to en­dure di­rect sun­light and the re­flec­tion of glass. Two of the ex­te­rior walls fea­ture mosaic in­stal­la­tions cre­ated by artist Bron­wen Find­lay: wa­ter lilies flow­ing with the cur­rent of the Oka­vango River are rep­re­sented on one of these and on the other, birds such as swallows and bee-eaters.

The jux­ta­po­si­tion of old and new and the strong in­flu­ence of na­ture in the Reads’ home mir­rors the story of how CIRCA was born. ‘CIRCA was born 10 years ago out of a de­sire to pro­gres­sively con­tem­po­rise Ever­ard Read gallery. That gallery was firmly rooted in mod­ern but tra­di­tional art, and we needed to make it more contemporary,’ says Chris­tine.

In their own home, talk­ing about the var­i­ous art­works that adorn the rooms, Chris­tine jokes, ‘I get ev­ery­thing on longterm ap­pro. What I’m re­ally pas­sion­ate about, I try to buy – on oc­ca­sion I have enough to be able to do so. But not un­like a mod­ern mu­seum, the art here is moved around – up-and-com­ing artists are ro­tated with favourites and earn pride of place. Col­lectibles, paint­ings and sculp­tures are re­ar­ranged, much like you would move fur­ni­ture in or­der to rein­vig­o­rate a space or home.’ ever­ard-read.co.za; cir­caon­jel­li­coe.co.za

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