The Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (MOCAA) opened in Cape Town, South Africa, in September 2017. This is the first major contemporary art museum in Africa dedicated to African contemporary art.
The re-purposed grain silo houses contemporary African art from the private collection of German philanthropist Jochen Zeitz, a former CEO of Puma. A six year labor of love, The New York Times sited the museum welcomes 3,000 visitors daily.
Zeitz MOCAA chief curator and executive director explained to the New York Times MOCAA’S mission is forward-looking contemporary with all works made after 2000.
Most interesting is the museum’s rule to acquire bodies of work and not just single examples by artists. With few exceptions the museum acquires 40-60 pieces from each artist for its collection. Also noteworthy is the museums’ desire to allow Africans to tell their own story through art.
Just as unique as the art inside the museum is the story of the old grain silo’s metamorphosis to become the museum.
Having resolved to re-purpose the old grain silo, the transformation was dynamic. The architect and his team took great efforts to preserve and highlight the building’s history. It was important to all parties involved to create curiosity with a fascinating and memorable museum interior that would draw people in and keep them coming back.
The grain storage building originally contained grain silos and had an adjacent elevator building. The middle section of the silos were carved away which created a cathedral-like atrium…Quite the memorable entrance with great acoustics!
The concrete used in the original construction of the building contains stones and minerals from Cape Town’s landmark Table Mountain. These aged materials added an unexpected warmth not typically found in modern concrete.
Heatherwick and his team imagined geodesic windows for the very top to provide a source of natural light. The 56-panel windows are Heatherwick and his team’s interpretation of how the grain once packed into the silos might look if bulging out of an opening.
There are 20,000 square feet of gallery 80 gallery spaces spread between nine floors and “white cube” spaces that Heatherwick and his team carved out from the silos and left unfinished for us.
The many gallery spaces are able to accommodate a variety of media and uses. From video installations to artworks hanging flat on the wall or even objects suspended from cables. Each space is unique and can be tailored to meet a specific exhibit’s needs.
Like most other modern musuems, Zeitz MOCAA boasts a bookshop, a restaurant, reading rooms for education, and a rooftop sculpture garden.
With its thoughtful design and forward thinking, the Zeitz MOCAA will surely become a top destination of South Africa. As the museum works towards balancing and developing its collection, we look forward to how the Zeitz MOCAA’s bold acquisition approach embraces and encourages contemporary African artists!