“Africa’s Tate Modern” to open in Cape Town

12th September 2017

Cape Town will very soon be home to the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (MOCAA) - the continent's biggest ever art museum -  already being described as “Africa’s Tate Modern”. 

On its launch, the building will host 80 galleries spread across nine floors, and is located on one of the globe’s most recognisable waterfronts. According to the Guardian, 24,000 tickets for the event sold out in a matter of minutes, and the opening is creating the biggest buzz in the continent’s collective creative world for many years. 

The MOCAA will overlook the Atlantic Ocean and is set against the picturesque backdrop of Table Mountain, the docks and the city. The design of the building itself will be one of the most striking to have ever been constructed in Africa, as well as being one of the continent's first institution devoted to contemporary art. 

Built with £29 million of private funds, the gallery will be open to the public and will exhibit the collection of German businessman Jochen Zeitz, as well as featuring a series of temporary exhibitions. 

The opening, which will occur later this month (September 22nd), comes nine years after the project was originally launched, and showcases the huge new worldwide interest in African works of art.

While before the First World War the most exciting artists were French, those after were Chinese, and now the ‘hot new place’ for contemporary art is Africa, claims the Economist. 

“It really is significant … [And] the significance is not just for my lifetime … but in 200 or 300 years from now,” explains Kudzanai Chiurai, a 36-year-old Zimbabwean artist whose work will be shown in one of the new museum’s inaugural exhibitions.

Currently, South Africa is where many of the continent’s most important contemporary artists work and live. It has an eclectic and vibrant scene, with many successful dealers having built a global presence in recent years. Yet despite this, there has been little public support or appreciation of contemporary artists, and many have found it difficult to gain recognition.  

Sisipho Ngodwana, associate at Stevenson Gallery, commented: “[The new museum] gives an opportunity to archive the contemporary scene as it happens. In South Africa in particular we have had many, many artists over the decades whose work gets forgotten. 

“A museum can create a narrative of the development of art. Galleries are more temporary, and a museum does not necessarily have the same interest in commercial gain.” 

In addition to this, the museum will feature world-class restaurants, cafes, shops and a 28-room boutique luxury hotel on its upper levels. 

During a time of political instability, many believe that the MOCAA is a response to South Africa’s deep problems, and is not only justified, but essential. The gallery will be a public meeting place where visitors are challenged by ideas that they can then learn from. 

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