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Grain Silo in Cape Town now Zeitz MOCAA

May 17, 2018

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 located on the revitalized V & A Waterfront in Cape Town, South Africa. Image courtesy of Artsy.

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.

The central atrium of Zeitz MOCAA. This space was created by carving concrete from the existing grain silos. Image courtesy of Arc Space.

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!

56 panel windows were installed at Zeitz MOCAA. Image courtesy of Heatherwick Studio.

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.

A rendering of Zeitz MOCAA by Heatherwick Studio shows how the grain silo has been converted to a museum complete with gallery and amenity spaces. Image courtesy of Arc Space.

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.

One of the many gallery spaces inside Zeitz MOCAA. Image courtesy of Arc Space.

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.

Exhibiting artwork by Nandipha Mntambo. An example of how the gallery spaces can display various artworks. Image courtesy of New Atlas.

Like most other modern musuems, Zeitz MOCAA boasts a bookshop, a restaurant, reading rooms for education, and a rooftop sculpture garden.

The rooftop sculpture garden among a patterned concrete and glass floor and geodesic windows with Table Mountain in the background. Image courtesy of Arc Space.

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!