‘I paint flowers so they will not die.’ – Frida Kahlo
It’s a completely natural fit, the blending of meticulously curated art with the Cape’s picturesque winelands. Be it perfectly sculpted pieces that add character to landscaped lawns, galleries that showcase the best of the country’s classical artists or a space where contemporary art meets African fusion.
There is something very alluring about experiencing an artist’s raw expression, while appreciating and interpreting the meaning behind their visual representation. Especially with Bacchus guiding the way.
Below are some of the top winery art galleries to visit in the Cape Winelands.
1. Walk the Benguela Cove Sculpture Park, Bot River Lagoon, Hermanus
The beautiful Benguela Cove Lagoon Wine Estate outside Hermanus is owned by British South African Entrepreneur Penny Streeter OBE and her husband Nick Rea. Their recently launched and very inviting Art Gallery and Sculpture Park is a collaboration with South African sculptor Anton Smit and is born from a shared passion for excellence combined with inspiring art, fine foods and award-winning wines.
Taking its name from Anton’s key artwork, Oblivion of the Waves, the display includes some 90 items that are scattered throughout the tasting venue, art gallery, cellar, restaurant and courtyard, as well as on the terrace, in the garden and at the entrance to the estate. These works vary from pieces the size of a man’s fist to sculptures that tower three metres high. Each work is accompanied by a poem or excerpt that speaks from Smit’s heart.
Widely revered for his sculptures that evoke themes of suffering, reconciliation, glory and sublimation, Anton’s works grace public and private collections throughout South Africa and internationally. ‘Comprising human figures, tender nudes, impressive heads, masks, angels, warriors, floating and stretching figures, as well as abstracts, his work is possessed of a raw, earthy power that feels innately African.’
Walk through the gallery and sculpture park while sipping on a glass of estate wine, and consider staying for a delicious lunch overlooking the vineyards and lagoon.
2. Celebrate the Love of Art at La Motte Wine Estate, Franschhoek
La Motte Wine Estate on the approach to Franschhoek, is celebrating their love of art with an exhibition that will run for the duration of 2020. Forming part of the fiftieth jubilee of La Motte’s Rupert ownership, Hanneli Rupert-Koegelenberg is inviting art lovers to view rare and important artworks from her personal collection, as well as from the family’s significant collection.
These will include works by Irma Stern, Maggie Laubser, Jean Welz and Cecil Higgs, with paintings rotated during the year in order to offer a greater offering.
While there, don’t miss the estate’s permanent display of Jacob Hendrik Pierneef – ‘A Tribute to the life and art of South Africa’s greatest master, JH Pierneef’ in one of the farm’s magnificently renovated buildings. Dr. Anton Rupert, an internationally respected industrialist and committed conservationist, and his art-devoted wife Huberte, are known to have played an important role in the preservation of South African art.
Today La Motte is one of three wine estates owned by the Rupert family and as much as there has always been a dedication to producing top quality wine and food, with hiking trails and mature gardens to meander through, the theme of art appreciation has always held strong.
3. Creative Blocks and Mosaic Magic at Spier Wine Farm, Stellenbosch
Spier is one of South Africa’s oldest wine farms with a fascinating history and legacy that reaches back as far as 1692. Today the farm has a modern, conscious living energy with a strong focus on art, good farming practices that are carried through to their restaurants and with numerous accolades for the estate’s wines.
Scattered throughout the farm you’ll discover works of art and installations from the Spier Art Collection — one of the largest collections of contemporary South African art in the country. The outdoor craft market displays gallery-level paintings and traditional handmade Nguni-style tapestries, along with handmade jewellery, wood and leather work, textiles and ceramics.
A Spier ‘Growing for Good’ learning initiative is the Creative Block, that invites artists, both established and emerging, to create works on a 18cm x 18cm blank block, with the best exhibited for sale on the farm.
Visit the Spier Mosaic Kraal, South Africa’s first outdoor mosaic exhibition that brings together the Creative Block project with the Spier Artisan Apprenticeship Programme which offers employment-based training in professional mosaic and ceramics. Here 16 images from the Creative Block project were interpreted as mosaic artworks by the programme's apprentices – in close consultation with each Creative Block artist.
Don’t miss the Dying Slave outdoor sculpture. The work by Marco Cianfanelli features nine columns that together create the completed picture. Each measuring 4.1 metres in height, they cover an installation area of almost 30 square metres in total.
Whether you’re there to taste the wines, eat, sleep, relax or explore, no visit to Spier should be complete without immersing yourself into the brilliance of their numerous art projects.
4. Observe the creation of Red Hot Glass at the Spice Route, Paarl
A world-class glassblowing studio, Red Hot Glass has been producing gorgeous work for over twenty five years and are responsible for some of the biggest glass installations on the African continent, with pieces furnishing many of the world's finest homes.
Each work is unique, be it a hand-blown perfume bottle or exquisitely colourful vase, chandelier, sculpture or artefact. These are on display – and for sale, in the beautiful exhibition space and studio.
David Jackson and Liz Lacey are the designers, makers and owners of Red Hot Glass and Henk Nel is the glass blower who leads the team with his 15 years of glass blowing experience. Glass blowing requires very focussed team work that choreographs its way to making the final art piece.
Call ahead to check the glass blowing schedule, as watching how the items are made by the artists will leave you mesmerized. Especially in a world where skilled artisans are sadly disappearing.
Red Hot Glass is found at the Spice Route in Paarl, which is home to numerous artisans producing ceramics, chocolate, beer, gin and grappa – among much else.
5. Contemporary, pop and modern art at Glen Carlou, Paarl
Donald Hess, the owner of Glen Carlou Wine Estate and a Swiss multimillionaire, has one of the largest privately owned contemporary art collections in the world. Opened in 2006, The Gallery at Glen Carlou houses some of these works with mediums as diverse as installation, photography, contemporary embroidery and ceramics contrasting with more traditional paintings and sculptures.
The Hess Art Collection is inspired by more than 50 years of vision and intuition and reflects the depth and calibre of art that Hess is drawn to and resonates with. The works on display are striking, modern and thought-provoking. The exhibition, curated by Pierre le Riche, showcases some of South Africa’s most prominent up-and-coming artists with the purpose of endorsing emerging South African talent.
Immerse yourself and be inspired. Glen Carlou’s vineyards are located less than 15 minutes from Stellenbosch with the 145-hectare property falling within the Simonsberg-Paarl region.
6. Delaire Graff Estate, home to the Chinese Girl and so much more, Stellenbosch
It would be remiss to speak about Winery Art Galleries and not make mention of the Delaire Graff Estate, where more than 350 indigenous plants and other imported, non-invasive species grow among water features and regal sculptures creating a collage of the natural kind.
It was to Delaire Graff Estate in 2013 that a very special painting was returned. One of the most iconic pieces of the 20th Century – and the first piece of art to inspire a lifelong passion in Laurence Graff – Vladimir Tretchikoff’s iconic Chinese Girl is currently on display in the main building.
Frequently named as one of the world’s top art collectors, Laurence Graff began his impressive collection by acquiring classic Impressionist paintings – one of the first works purchased was a small Renoir in the late 1970s, which he kept in a safe among his diamonds.
At Delaire Graff, each piece that adorns the walls and gardens has been personally handpicked by Graff from his much-treasured personal portfolio. The collection features works by artists such as Anton Smit, Deborah Bell, Dylan Lewis, Lionel Smit, Cecil Skotnes, Kendell Geers, Ndikhumbule Ngqinambi and William Kentridge.
Primarily comprised of South African artists, the works have grown to include pan-African artists in a collection of vibrancy, colour and poignancy. The estate is an architectural masterpiece with everything from the restaurants to villas and spa, all speaking to the brilliance of the art, culture and wine on offer.
Within both Stellenbosch and Franschhoek are a collection of fine art galleries, which make ideal stops while exploring the region. Deserving special mention are Art in the Yard and Is Art in Franschhoek, as well as Art on Church Gallery and the Rembrandt Van Rijn Gallery in Stellenbosch.