Contemporary African art has a new home at the southernmost tip of the continent. The Zeitz Museum of Modern Contemporary African Art, also known as the Zeitz MOCAA, opened it’s doors in Cape Town, South Africa on September 15.
Before the official opening, journalists had a sneak preview of the museum’s first exhibition which is housed at the V&A Waterfront’s historic grain silo complex, re-purposed through a design by Heatherwick Studio to house the museum.
The V&A Waterfront is Cape Town’s most popular tourist attraction, home to a myriad of shopping, dining, entertainment venues and museums and the Zeitz MOCAA is a world class addition for the more than 24 million tourists who visit annually.
The Zeitz MOCAA is the world’s largest museum solely dedicated to contemporary art from Africa and its diaspora. The museum has 9,500 sq metres of custom designed space, spread over nine floors, carved out of the monumental silo complex.
The galleries and the cathedral-like atrium space at the centre of the museum have been carved from the silos’ dense cellular concrete structure of 42 tubes that pack the building.
The development includes 6,000 sq metres of exhibition space in 100 galleries, a rooftop sculpture garden, state of the art storage and conservation areas, a bookshop, a restaurant and bar, and various reading rooms.
The museum will also house a Costume Institute, and Centres for Photography, Curatorial Excellence, the Moving Image, Performative Practice and Art Education.
The establishment of the museum came about as a confluence of factors.
The V&A Waterfront recognised the significance of its Grain Silo complex as an historic landmark and for years debated possible uses. An art museum was eventually decided upon but a collection was needed.
The desire was to house something of public civic significance, and something open to the public. It was through Ravi Naidoo, the founder and managing director of Durban-based Design Indaba and its founding company, Interactive Africa that Thomas Heatherwick, founder of London-based design practice Heatherwick Studio was introduced to the Grain Silo complex in 2006, and again in 2011.
Meanwhile, since meeting in 2008, German entrepreneur Jochen Zeitz, a noted collector of contemporary African art was working with curator Mark Coetzee to build a world class collection of contemporary art from Africa and its diaspora with the vision to create the first major museum dedicated to it.