Art is taking over the streets of Cape Town

The hip and gritty suburb of Woodstock on the border of Cape Town’s city centre is at the centre of an explosion of colourful street art.

The once industrial and semi-derelict suburb of Woodstock, just outside Cape Town’s city centre, has seen a revival recently, led by the opening of new galleries and a rich collection of street art that has won the attention of the foreign press such as BBC News and France24.

Much of the street art in Woodstock is a result of collaborations between local and international artists. In 2011, for example, an artist residency programme called A Word of Art collaborated with Adidas to bring in 13 artists, both local and international, to paint large-scale public art projects throughout the city of Cape Town.

Well-known Cape Town artist Grant Jurius has helped this interest grow with his Woodstock art tour called “The Street is the Gallery”. He sees his work as partly a community upliftment project. “The tours are about giving insight into communities in our city via street art and graffiti,” Jurius explains. “Cape Flats and coloured culture are for the most part misunderstood and we look a little bit at how the art reflects and is affected by the surroundings and the laws in place, be it by the city or street values.”

Jurius believes that more cooperative projects should happen between artists and local residents to renew and beautify Cape Town’s urban spaces.

Art world’s ‘King of Kitsch’ called Cape Town home

Legendary Russian-born artist Vladimir Tretchikoff — the “King of Kitsch” — called Cape Town home until his death in 2006. Love him or hate him, there’s no denying his success.

After the boat he was on was bombed during the Second World War, Tretchikoff eventually made his way to Cape Town in 1946, where he lived until his death in 2006. Here he became one of the most popular and commercially successful artists of all time.

Nicknamed the “King of Kitsch” and long scoffed at by the artistic in-crowd, Tretchikoff’s work has seen something of a revival, lauded for its ironic charm.

As a self-taught artist taking inspiration from his early life in Singapore, China and Indonesia, as well as South Africa, it’s considered that his success had at least as much to do with a knack for marketing and commercial acumen as with actual artistic skill.

His painting Chinese girl (widely known as The green lady) is one of the best-selling reproduction prints of the 20th century. Prints of The dying swan similarly sold millions around the world. In the book Incredible Tretchikoff, his biographer Boris Gorelik writes that his reproductions were so popular it was rumoured that Tretchikoff was the world’s richest artist after Picasso. In 2013, Chinese girl sold for nearly £1 million at auction in London.

One of the most successful shows in the history of the South African National Gallery in Cape Town was the 2011 Tretchikoff retrospective.

The Tretchikoff Trust was established after his death and hosts workshops for teenagers throughout South Africa. The Trust is based on Tretchikoff’s life motto: “Express your passion, do whatever you love, take action, no matter what.”

Art54 project turns seaside promenade into open-air art gallery

The seaside promenade of Cape Town’s Sea Point suburb has become a hub for public art.

The 11-kilometre stretch of promenade running along Sea Point, the seaside suburb just outside Cape Town’s city centre, has always been a popular sunset hangout for joggers, cyclists and families, where children can clamber on the open-air jungle gyms.

It has also become a bit of an open-air art gallery, with public art pieces dotting the promenade.

This is due to a collaboration between the City of Cape Town, the local municipality and artists, who formed a collective called Art54 that has resulted in sculptures, paintings and photographic installations being displayed along the walkway.

A tour of the art along the Sea Point promenade should start near the playground area, walking towards the well signposted Rocklands Beach, where a local painter has transformed the concrete walls of public buildings into a gorgeous Rothko-like mural. Roughly a kilometre further down the Sea Point promenade, the Soft Walls photographic exhibition gives an intimate glimpse into the lives of refugees and migrants to South Africa. And in between these two artworks is the Rhino sculpture, which makes smart use of space to draw attention to the disappearance and slaughter of these endangered animals.

Art, interior design and visual branding merge at this Cape Town studio

With a formal background in interior design, Dylan Thomaz’s left one of South Africa’s biggest homeware retailers to open Studio Dylan Thomaz, his adjoined studio and gallery space in Cape Town’s city centre. Here his creative flair and skills have extended beyond interior design into visual branding and art curation, and to giving emerging artists and designers a platform to showcase their work. He tells us more about the concept.

As an interior designer based in Cape Town I service both residential and commercial clients, bringing to life what inspires them. But as a curator, my gallery space in Cape Town’s city centre is where I get to work with emerging artists and designers to help them become brands that are sustainable in the long run. I do this by helping them to develop product that is commercially viable, like textiles and ceramics for example, and every month I showcase a new artist or designer’s work at the monthly First Thursdays events .

Another project that I’m currently busy with is called Platform 8, where local designers will be able to showcase, manufacture and retail their designs while learning business acumen through a business course and coaching sessions to be offered with it.

From an interior design point of view, showcasing a variety of aesthetics has become the norm, with so much to choose from. And it has also started to become more attainable because everyone should have access to good design and design services. This has a lot to do with Cape Town’s year as World Design Capital in 2014 (WDC 2014); the freedom to showcase and see great design in our city and country was inspiring.

The other great after-effect of WDC 2014 is the willingness for more collaborations between designers, which takes design and its execution to the next level, beyond expectation.

The location of my studio and gallery space, Studio Dylan Thomaz, in the heart of Cape Town’s city centre, is ideal as I get to commute on my bicycle. It’s also in a part of the city where one gets to see an array of integrated cultures and communities. Best of all, though, it’s near to some of my favourite buildings and landmarks, such as Cape Town City Hall, which has a powerful and historical presence on the cityscape. Another one is the nearby South African National Gallery, with Table Mountain as its backdrop and with interiors that show off some of the country’s most renowned artistic work throughout our history.

Cape Town is a top global art destination

A quick introduction to Cape Town as a city of art.

Cape Town has cemented its place as a worthy participant in the international art scene, with a range of renowned art fairs, monthly events, public art and street art that rivals any of the world’s larger cities for innovation and inspiration.

At the same time, innovative artists, collectors and property developers are ensuring Cape Town’s position as a top global art destination.

In Cape Town art doesn’t just happen in galleries, but out on the streets too, where it has become part of the fabric of a city where officials use art to bring people together. Art critic Ivor Powell says there is “a dynamism, commitment and identity in the arts such as we have not seen since the dawn of the South African democracy (in 1994)”.

Ashraf Jamal, cultural analyst and author of Art South Africa, references an 1899 painting by British artist James Ford entitled Holiday time in Cape Town in the Twentieth Century, to sum up the art scene in Cape Town: “At the glossy foot of Table Mountain we see a crazy mix of European architecture from Gothic to Neoclassical to the weird Venturi postmodern spin-offs we would become accustomed to, in which anything and everything came together to create a frenzied tentacular aesthetic. That’s Cape Town! A mix, a mashup, a reverb. Part colonial, part now, caught in a time warp that allows for nostalgia, dreams – even an art revolution.”

Cape Town is South Africa’s art capital

Art galleries and artists have multiplied over the past decade to create a rich and thriving art industry in Cape Town.

Art expert Heidi Erdmann, owner of The Photographers Gallery ZA and Erdmann Contemporary, reflects on how Cape Town’s commercial art scene grew in the 2000s and her involvement in driving growth.

“It was a Rineke Dijkstra photograph on the cover of an ARTnews magazine in 1994 which prompted the decision to pursue contemporary photography as my preferred focus.

When I opened The Photographers Gallery ZA in 2001, there were two other commercial galleries in Cape Town. Within a couple of years that number had quadrupled, with consistent growth particularly in the centre of Cape Town.

Despite the increasing number of galleries, the Cape Town arts industry remained professionally poor for a long time. But things have changed, and are still changing.  With the launch of the Cape Town Art Fair now in its fourth year, a booming secondary market and a Museum of Contemporary African Art under construction, Cape Town is set to grow professionally and will retain its crown as South Africa’s number one cultural destination.

My most memorable off-site exhibition was at The Fritz, an intimate boutique hotel located just off Kloof Street in Gardens. I installed an exhibition of hand-printed black-and-white photographs by well-known photographer Jurgen Schadeberg. A one-month project grew into a four-year-long, much-admired exhibition. It was a victory for the medium – prior to that exhibition The Fritz had only shown original paintings at their premises.

Internationally, photography has been the hippest kid on the block for decades, but that has not been the case in South Africa. Here the acceptance of the medium has been tardy and often pigeon-holed. But that too is changing, and particularly here in Cape Town; one can now find a good photography exhibition all year round. It might not be in a gallery, but look in the side streets, find the destination shops … that is often where the talent is found.”

Drawing from the heart of Cape Town: in studio with Lauren Fowler

As one of Cape Town’s most well known illustrators and graphic designers, Lauren Fowler’s artful illustrations and designs have launched her into the realm of children’s books. Her first, Florence and Watson and the Sugarbush Mouse – a collaborative project conceptualised as a play – tells a delightful South African story about a little mouse called Petal trying to find her way in the world. She shares more about her craft and her creative process.

I’m an illustrator, graphic designer and thing maker. My illustration style is all hand drawn, naive, friendly and detailed. I really love drawing animal fur and patterns. My art prints are a little more serious and artful and my smaller prints are more decorative and cute.

I have a lovely studio at the Woodstock Foundry in Woodstock (the gritty inner city neighbourhood on the border of Cape Town’s city centre). There is a wall that curves with four sash windows and it’s my favourite part of my studio because I get the most amazing natural light. The original building of the Woodstock Foundry is very old and my floor tilts to one side, which I love. Besides all my creative neighbours and my studio, one of my favourite things about the Woodstock Foundry is the courtyard. When the hub first launched, little seedlings were planted and now four years later the courtyard is an explosion of green. It’s a little oasis in the industrial heart of Woodstock.

I write all my ideas down in my diary or into my phone. Ideas are tricky because they could be really great, or not really transpire into illustration properly. They also seem to have a time limit – sometimes if I don’t get onto something fast enough, the ideas seem stale to me and then I reject them. It’s finding a balance, the energy and excitement that an idea gives you and then channeling that into an image. Basically like alchemy!

Once I’ve formed my ideas onto paper using my trusty clutch pencil and inked with my techincal pen, I scan them, move things around in Photoshop, perhaps add some colour and send to print. My biggest achievement last year was the children’s book Florence and Watson and the Sugarbush Mouse, on which I collaborated with comedian and actor Rob Van Vuuren, director Danielle Bischoff and producer Siv Ngesi. I am so proud of it and my heart shines every time I see a child reading it.

Eat, drink and be spoiled at the Cape’s Delaire Graff wine estate

You know you’re in for a treat from the very moment you drive up a luscious green lane lined with magnificent statues and trees…

The Delaire Graff Estate offers an experience in which all your senses will be stimulated. Nothing makes a better pairing with wine than food, art and beauty – and you will be able to enjoy the complete experience at this estate outside Stellenbosch.

Visually, the estate is an explosion of colour, nature and art. A must-see is the art collection, which recently acquired a fantastic new addition – Vladimir Tretchikoff’s iconic painting the ‘Chinese Girl’. Chairman of Graff Diamonds Laurence Graff acquired the piece, one of the most reproduced and recognisable paintings in the world, in March 2013.

Dotted around the estate and lining the walls are examples of some of the most fascinating art that South Africa has produced. South Africa’s diverse heritage is reflected in the art that can be viewed here: Lionel Smit’s African Woman in the Tasting Lounge echoes the subtle palette of the natural hues used in the sophisticated setting, while signature Dylan Lewis cheetahs grace the landscape. Works by Deborah Bell, Sidney Kumalo, Fred Schimmel, Durant Sihlali and Cecil Skotnes adorn the walls, while guests at the Lodge will particularly enjoy Stephane Graff and the intensity of Ndikhumbule Ngqinambi’s work.

The estate gardens are another visual wonder, landscaped by celebrity horticulturalist and multi gold-medal finalist at the Chelsea Flower Show, Keith Kirsten. Here you can walk amongst mostly indigenous plants, shrubs and trees, including milkwoods, yellowwoods and sneezewoods.

The luxury lodges on the estate – for those who want to spend more time in this fantasy world of art, wine and nature, are surrounded by scented hedges of camellia and swathes of coffee jasmine.

When all the senses are spoken to, hunger will still prevail – but even here the estate offers food and wine that will introduce you to a world of new taste experiences in one of their restaurants.

At the Delaire Graff Restaurant the style is “bistro chic” cuisine, which is organic, feel-good food infused with vibrant flavours. The dishes here are pure Africa on a plate, such as the beef tongue, served with pickled white asparagus, beef jam, brown butter and horseradish. There are also lamb neck, line fish and beef served with chargrilled vegetables, sweetbread ravioli and asparagus. The dishes here are pure Africa on a plate, such as the beef tongue, served with pickled white asparagus, beef jam, brown butter and horseradish.

Indochine serves Asian-inspired food, which can only be described as art on a plate. Here you can enjoy seared miso yellowtail, or sip a mussel and whelk laksa soup. Some main courses to delight in are Thai barbeque, cured salmon trout or curries made with line fish, lamb, beef and duck.

On the wine front, you won’t be disappointed. The estate has won several awards and there is a wine lounge where you can taste the Delaire Graff wine range while you enjoy beautiful views and a roaring fireplace in winter.

For longer stays and pampering treats, the estate has a luxury lodge and spa where you can unwind and relax.

From bare earth to art: my culture inspires my creative process

When Andile Dyalvane and his business partner Zizipho Poswa founded Imiso Ceramics in 2006, little did they know that within a decade his decorative, clay artworks would be featured at prestigious design and art exhibits around the world as part of the Southern Guild showcase, or as part of the Iziko National Ceramic Museum’s Collection. He sheds some light on his creative process in the decorative arts and ceramic making as one of Cape Town’s heavyweight designers.

In ceramics, as in most practical crafts with manual handwork, undertakings begin with seeing. Visual influences while growing up in the rural Eastern Cape, in a family that practices the traditions of Xhosa culture — herding livestock as well as having Anglican religious affiliations — my boyhood days were filled with playing between clay ravines and carving hiding places through the valleys. Clay, which is my primary material for artistic expression, was readily available and making cattle figurines to play with was a common activity for us kids of Ngobozana village. My craft therefore is one that captures the layers of my life experiences and heritage.

The concepts for my designs always have roots in the environments that I experience, whether from my traditional Xhosa background, urban studio workspace and surrounds, artist residencies, travel and my days as a student. My ideas for my ceramic designs are inspired by Africa and her artefacts, just as my favourite artistic icon, Pablo Picasso, was.

I visualise and sketch and from that apply various techniques to the clay such as coiling, throwing, press-moulding and slip-casting to create a variety of shapes and surfaces. From this technique I’ve created three collections at my and Zizipho Poswa’s Imiso Gallery, namely Views From the Studio, Africasso and Scarified.

Imiso Ceramics’ workshop and gallery is based at the Old Biscuit Mill in Woodstock, where a saturation of designers and crafters have their studios in nifty spaces. It’s an area of yuppie street smarts and underdog hustles, old industry and decay, as well as trains clucking through the concrete and metal of warehouses, not to mention cafés that serve the best coffee. The Neigbourgoods Market is buzzing at the Old Biscuit Mill on Saturday mornings, where artisans spread their goods carefully on innovative displays, adding another layer to this dynamic neighbourhood.

Hit these streets in Cape Town’s city centre for awesome design

Cape Town’s city centre is easily explored by foot – and that’s the best way to seek out the local design talent, whether you’re looking out for art, architecture, jewellery or fashion…

Cape Town’s city centre is a treasure trove of creative expression. The main streets and seach have their own distinct character and, together with the neighbouring suburb of Woodstock, have secured Cape Town’s place – after being named the World Design Capital in 2014 – on the global design map.

“Cape Town’s design scene is vibrant and diverse. We have tackled creativity in a varied way and in doing so are able to offer it on many levels, be it interior design, architecture, interior products, food, art fashion,” says Robert Sherwood of interior design consultancy Robert Sherwood Design.

You heard the man: get out there and spend a day trawling the city centre! Just make sure you wear comfortable shoes…

Bree Street

In the last few years many interior and fashion designers and architects, have opened shops in Bree Street, elevating it to Cape Town’s “Designer Mile”. Robert Sherwood Design, fabric house Skinny La Minx and Avoova – which specialises in interior products made out of indigenous ostrich shells – are but a few. These are set in and amongst architects’ practices such as Inhouse Brand Architects and Van der Merwe Miszewski Architects, accessories designers and fashion boutiques, and a number of gourmet restaurants and well-known art galleries.

Loop, Long and Church Streets

If you head down into Loop and Long Streets make sure you go there via Church Street. Long famed for its outdoor antique market, it’s a narrow street full of art galleries and jewellery design studios, and is also home to designer showroom and shop Chandler House. Further down is the Ceramic Factory, which produces bright and quirky ceramic home accessories in a range of interesting designs.

African Image, a well-known seller of African crafts and products from across the continent is further down Church Street. Nearby, in Loop Street, is Stable, a design emporium featuring innovative local brands such as Dark Horse, Indigi Designs and James Mudge Furniture, amongst many others. Next door is fine art and design gallery Ebony.

Kloof Street

Further up the city grid, heading toward Table Mountain, is Kloof Street – an extension of Long Street and home to a host of established local design shops. Lim, Klooftique and Loft Living all specialise in furniture design and home décor, while newcomers Ashanti Design specialise in vibrant home furnishings from the African sub-continent. The Lifestyle on Kloof centre hosts the popular loved Present Space, a design collective that represents close to a hundred local designers.