86 Zeitz shines a light on the contemporary scene
The continent’s largest museum of contemporary art has at last opened its doors in Cape Town
The V&A Waterfront is a landmark every Capetonian knows for its shops, restaurants and leisure activities. Now, with the opening of the multi-million-dollar Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa, it will also become the go-to destination for art lovers worldwide. “This museum is a symbol and an icon of the confidence we feel about being Africans,” chief curator Mark Coetzee said at the launch in September. “The confidence we feel about our place in the world.” A public, not-for-profit museum, it is the largest contemporary art museum on the continent, with a total area of almost 10,000m2 including exhibition space of 6,000m2 spread over nine floors, dedicated to exhibiting the best of African, diaspora, and international art. It is already being dubbed the Tate Modern of Africa. The tubular museum was carved out of an old, disused grain silo that was once one of the tallest structures in the country by British architect Thomas Heatherwick over the past two years. In a nod to the structure’s former use Heatherwick formed corn grain-shaped cutouts around the museum. The Zeitz houses 80 separate gallery spaces displaying the talent of the ‘new school’ of African art. Its collection includes work from Angola’s Edson Chagas, Zanele Muholi from South Africa, Kudzanai Chi ur ai of Zimbabwe, Nandipha Mntambo from Swaziland, and Cyrus Ka bi ru and Wan ge chi Mutu, both from Kenya. Chagas’s Luanda, Encyclopedic City, an installation consisting of 23 stacks of 5,000 massproduced images from the artist’s photographic series, features in the opening exhibition. This work was part of Angola’s maiden pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 2013, which won a Golden Lion award. Another mustsee exhibit is South African Nicholas Hlobo’s iimpundulu zonke ziyandilandela, which translates from Xhosa as ‘all the lightning birds are after me’. The work, which was originally created for the 2011 Venice Biennale, combines rubber inner tubing, multicoloured ribbons, an animal skull and pink theatre lights. The Zeitz museum adds an edge to the V&A waterfront, which is still an ideal location to enjoy a sundowner drink overlooking Robben Island and the expansive Atlantic Ocean.
The sculptural museum is carved from a honeycomb of giant concrete tubes in the former grain silo