South Africa’s New Art Destination: Norval Foundation
With the opening of Norval Foundation in Steenberg, Cape Town in 2018, art & culture enthusiasts and the public alike gained access to a new space dedicated to showcasing art exhibitions with global appeal, in an environment that also fosters an appreciation for nature.
Adjacent to Table Mountain National Park, Norval Foundation was designed by dhk Architects and features world-class, purpose-built galleries, a sculpture garden, outdoor amphitheatre, research library, a restaurant and bar, a shop and a children’s playground.
The Norval family are the founders and initial funders of Norval Foundation. Their aim is to make art widely accessible to local and international visitors, by creating a self-sustainable centre for art. The proceeds from capital donations will be used to secure the foundation for future generations.
Guided by Executive Director Elana Brundyn and her team of museum professionals, Norval Foundation – as the custodians of the Edoardo Villa Estate Collection, the Alexis Preller Archive and contemporary art collections – will endeavour to create high-quality exhibitions and public programming. Norval Foundation also hosts the Gerard Sekoto Foundation.
The Homestead Art Collection, housed at the foundation as a curatorial asset, is one of the leading collections of 20th-century South African art assembled by the Norval family over the past two decades. The collection includes work by artists such as Deborah Bell, Peter Clarke, Dumile Feni, Sydney Kumalo, Maggie Laubser, Ezrom Legae, Trevor Makhoba, John Muafangejo, George Pemba, Alexis Preller, Gerard Sekoto, Cecil Skotnes, Irma Stern, Edoardo Villa and Anton van Wouw. It also incorporates Bruce Campbell Smith’s Revisions Collection and a significant collection of publications on South African art.
In addition to the sculpture garden, the foundation has three opening exhibitions. The first, Re/discovery and Memory, features major retrospectives of the work of both Sydney Kumalo and Ezrom Legae, and is curated by Senior Advising Curator Karel Nel. Their work will be shown alongside an exhibition of their friend and colleague Edoardo Villa. The Kumalo and Legae retrospectives – the first to be undertaken by any institution globally – draws together a considerable body of work covering a series of bronzes and drawings chronicling their innovative artistic practices. The Villa exhibition focuses on his work produced between 1958 to 1968, and is centred around his monumental sculpture Africa (1959). Alongside these Serge Alain Nitegeka has been commissioned to create an immersive installation in Norval Foundation’s atrium, supported by the Claire and Edoardo Villa Will Trust’s Extraordinary Award for Sculpture.
Other inaugural exhibitions include Spectrality, Sorcery and the Spirit by Adjunct Curator, Portia Malatjie; Pulling at Threads by Chief Curator Owen Martin and US, THEM & I by Adjunct Curator Performance Khanyisile Mbongwa. Kyle Shepherd is the Adjunct Curator Concert Programme.
A visit to Norval Foundation promises to be a multi-sensory experience with its innovative sculpture garden established in a beautiful outdoor setting, the amphitheatre for music and cultural events, as well as The Skotnes Restaurant and Bar.
Overlooking the foundation’s serene wetland and sculpture garden, The Skotnes Restaurant and Bar, named after legendary South African artist and teacher Cecil Skotnes, seamlessly integrates nature and architecture. The menu pays homage to classical South African cuisine, whilst updating its flavours and distilling its ingredients to their simplest presentation. All ingredients are sourced locally from small-batch suppliers, with the intention of supporting and uplifting local communities. At the helm of the restaurant is Executive Chef Phil de Villiers, who previously led Primal Eatery, which was named Eat Out’s Best Steakhouse of 2017.
The property’s grounds, landscaped by Keith Kirsten International, incorporates an incredibly sensitive Cape lowland freshwater wetland, which is the habitat of the endangered Western Leopard Toad. Norval Foundation is committed to preserving this sensitive ecosystem and has constructed concrete culverts underneath Steenberg Road to facilitate the toads’ safe access to the wetland for mating purposes. The foundation is also powered by an array of solar panels on its roof, and its greywater purification system allows for a large degree of independence from municipal water supplies, further reducing its impact on the environment.
Norval Foundation has invested in educational outreach by employing a Coordinator of Education to engage with both public and private schools from across the Western Cape. All patrons under 18 will be given free entrance, and entry on Mondays will also be free, so that everyone has an opportunity to access the foundation.