The Norval Foundation is a centre for art and cultural expression located in the Steenberg area of Cape Town, just at the foot of Ou Kaapse Weg.
The impressive contemporary art gallery first opened doors in late April of 2018. I’ve been there a few times but have finally managed to pen a few words on this dominating and impressive landmark. It cuts radically into what is the sometimes parochial neighbourhood of Constantia. Look, it’s not subtle – but therein lies its new and bold African confidence. The foundation states “it is dedicated to the research, understanding and care of twentieth and twenty-first century visual art from Africa and its diasporas.” But any link to a humble and understated African image should be swiftly cast aside. This is a proud building which brings a global perspective into the leafy locale. The Norval Foundation was created by DHK Architects. “A modern pavilion for art. Set against a mountain and vineyard landscape, it is a pure expression of form.” continues the about section of the foundation’s website.
The contemporary gallery sits just on the edges of a natural wetland surrounded by indigenous plants and animals.
The Norval Foundation branding.
The north facing elevation stands dominant over the landscape and catches the evening sun.
The entrance to the gallery lies to the south and mirrors the northerly aspect.
The whole side of the pavilion sits overlooking a lush sculpture garden.
The exhibits make use of the sun streaming in through the windows. This is a welcome shift from usual galleries which tend to block out external light in preference for cool neon.
Joyride, a jovial and quirky bronze by Norman Catherine greets visitors at the entrance to the sculpture park.
Detail, Joyride, 2016
Action, 2018 by William Kentridge
Holderstebolder, 2018 by Angus Taylor
Again Again, 2015 by Brett Murray
The most impressive part of the entire visitors experience is the Sculpture Garden. This features a walk way browsing through installations from South Africa and the greater continent. The impressive site is bisected by a protected Cape lowland freshwater wetland and features flora indigenous to the peninsula. The contours of the garden both hides and displays work according to the stroll underfoot. It’s a lovely environment for some headspace and warrants a visit just on your own to best appreciate the silence. Bar the odd croaking frog. The Norval describes the artistic intent: “The exhibition programme in the Sculpture Garden aims to represent a plurality of practices currently taking place in the region, including artists working with the figure, narrative and mythology, abstraction and post-minimalism, and craft. Artworks will be a mixture of long term loans and work from the Homestead Collection, which are installed permanently.”
Javusa, 1997 by Josephine Ghesa
Arab, 1939 by Irma Stern - From her Zanzibar series
South African Policemen, 1987 by Noria Mabasa
Ukuzalwa Kukujesu, 1995 by Bonnie Ntshalintshali
Stained Glass Panels, 2020 by Athi-Patra Ruga from iiNyanga Zonyaka
Caution, 2022 by Snakes