• 7 Feb 2018

On September 22nd, 2017 the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (MOCAA) opened its doors in Cape Town. Built in a grain silo that was redesigned by British architect Thomas Heatherwick, the museum self-proclaimed it was the biggest contemporary African Art museum on the continent. What can we say after its first months of operation?

This picture by Iwan Baan represents th Zeitz Museum of Contemporary African Art in Cape Town.

View of Zeitz MOCAA © Iwan Baan

An Artwork – museum

The building that was renovated to host the museum is a work of Art in itself. As a true architectural exploit, the structure gave a lot of space to concrete. Indeed, the idea ws to preserve the original aspect of the silo which has been abandoned since 2001. As a result, British architect Thomas Heatherwick chose to install a 89 feet carved atrium inside the 42 former storage tubes. The nine floors of the renovated silo, which was built in 1921, tot an exhibition space up to 6500 square feet. Since the announcement of its construction as well as its intention to present the private collection of Jochen Zeitz, the billionaire who redressed the balance of Puma, the museum was constantly the target of hyperbolic comments. As soon as the foundation stone was laid, the world said it was the largest museum built in Africa for over a century. As a result, it is quite a challenge that the museum has been facing since September 2017.

A new hope for contemporary African Artists despite the controversies

When the museum was on the verge of opening its doors, British architect Tomas Heatherwick said: “from here, the grain was exported abroad. Now, we have a new place to which Art can come back to and from which it will never run off.”Indeed, the museum was already proclaiming its intention to become Africa’s contemporary Art nerve center. However, its detractors pointed out a certain opportunism on Jochen Zeitz’s part whose personal foundation apparently did not invest much money. As a result, it appears that the institution built on step by step through fund raising events and gala dinners. Nonetheless, Jochen Zeitz gave the museum the possibility to present a renowned collection for its inauguration and after for an unlimited amount of time. The Zeitz MOCAA remains a real opportunity for contemporary African Artists and their international visibility. Like French-Morocan curator Touria El Glaoui said “having a first museum with a global ambition on the African continent has always been highly anticipated.” As a result, the museum’s ambition is to enable Artist to internationalize without being forced to expatriation.

This picture by Iwan Baan represents a view from Silo Square of the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary African Art in Cape Town, South Africa.

Zeitz MOCAA © Iwan Baan

An ambitious opening exhibition

The exhibition All Things Being Equal… which opened the institution aims at daling with the issues of democratic and geopolitical representation. Indeed, its name come from the text based Artwork of Artists Hank Willis Thomas. The curator of the exhibition, Mark Coetzee, wished to represent Africa and its diasporas through different media: photography, sculpture, painting, video. The viewer is given voluntarily left to his/her own devices so that he/she can extract the meaning he/she sees in the exhibition. Nonetheless, only 12 countries are represented even though the United Nations recognize 54 countries in the African continent excluding its worldwide Diaspora. South Africa is the most represented country with Artists that include renowned William Kentridge and Kendell Geers. In fact, they both mix sculpture, video and installations to set up the foundation of a reflection on social equality and how a young continental Artist can thrive through his/her history, which includes dark moments such as colonization and the Apartheid. The Zeitz MOCAA still has a long way to go before it’d fulfill its ambitions of supporting contemporary African young Artists around the world.

This picture by Jindřich Nosek (NoJin) represents William Kentridge's sculpture Il cavaliere di Toledo in Naples, Italy, in 2012.

Il cavaliere di Toledo, 2012, William Kentridge © Jindřich Nosek (NoJin)


Read our article about Art-Trope Artist and painter Zoé Bayard here.

Sources: Le Monde and Hypperallergic