When Norval Foundation opened in Steenberg, Cape Town on 28 April 2018, art and culture enthusiasts and the public alike gained access to a new space dedicated to showcasing art exhibitions with global appeal, in an environment that also fosters an appreciation for nature.
Adjacent to Table Mountain National Park, Norval Foundation was designed by dhk Architects and features world-class, purpose-built galleries, a sculpture garden, outdoor amphitheatre, research library, a restaurant and bar, a shop, and a children’s playground.
The Norval family are the founders and initial funders of Norval Foundation. Their aim is to make art widely accessible to local and international visitors, by creating a self-sustainable centre for art.
The Homestead Art Collection, housed at the foundation as a curatorial asset, is one of the leading collections of 20th-century South African art, assembled by the Norval family over the past two decades. Norval Foundation is also the custodian of the Edoardo Villa Estate Collection, the Alexis Preller Archive and hosts the Gerard Sekoto Foundation. In addition, it incorporates Bruce Campbell Smith’s Revisions Collection and a significant collection of publications on South African art.
The Sculpture Garden at Norval Foundation features three-dimensional and installation-based artworks. The unique site, bisected by a protected Cape Lowland Freshwater Wetland and surrounded by the natural beauty of the Western Cape, features flora that are indigenous to the area. The placement of artwork takes the site into consideration, using the contours of the garden to hide and reveal work, creating an experience of discovery for the viewer.
The exhibition programme in the Sculpture Garden aims to represent a plurality of practices currently taking place in the region, including artists working with the figure, narrative and mythology, abstraction and post-minimalism, and craft.
Following its acquisition by the Homestead Art Collection, Norval Foundation will unveil Yinka Shonibare’s Wind Sculpture (SG) III (2018) as part of the permanent display in their Sculpture Garden on 13 February 2019. Accompanying the sculpture unveiling will be a solo exhibition by Shonibare in the Norval Foundation gallery. Shonibare’s practice considers how colonial and postcolonial representations and identities function within complex historical and contemporary networks, particularly in the relationship between Africa and Europe.
Nandipha Mntambo’s sculpture Ophelia (2015) is a Sculpture Garden highlight. In Mntambo’s interpretation of Ophelia, a character in William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, the artist places herself in the role of the tragic protagonist moments after she has thrown herself into a brook and drowned. Mntambo’s choice of Ophelia, one of Western literature’s great female characters in one of its most iconic plays, is indicative of the artist’s practice of creating hybrid narratives that draw upon both Western and African cultures. Historically, Ophelia has not been played by an African or Black women but Mntambo questions this norm by confidently inserting herself into this role. Ophelia is also a recurring art historical theme, perhaps most famously in paintings by Sir John Everett Millais and John William Waterhouse, both part of the Pre-Raphaelite movement that took place in the late 19th century in England.
Norval Foundation’s Sculpture Garden also features William Kentridge and Gerhard Marx’s Fire Walker (2009-10), Wim Botha’s Prism (Flush) (2013-18), Victor Ehikhamenor’s Isimagodo (The Unknowable) (2016), Joni Brenner’s Kin (2015-16), Brett Murray’s Again Again (2015), Angus Taylor’s Holderstebolder (2018), Speelman Mahlangu’s Riding the Bull I (circa 2004), Mark Swart’s Voyage (2016), and three artworks by South African-Zimbabwean artist Michele Mathison: Kakiebos (2017), Fault Line (2017), and Volition (2017).
An exhibition of works by Helen Sebidi as well as Wim Botha’s Prism are currently on exhibition at Norval Foundation’s purpose-built galleries.
Ending on 24 January 2019, the Helen Sebidi exhibition looks at her continued dedication to issues of non-western mythologies, ancestry and traditional African value systems. Through the relationship between dreams and ancestry, Sebidi references the politicisation of landscape, and its relationship to growth and issues of creation.
Wim Botha has developed a singular visual language through the interpretation and questioning of icons from the natural world, including African fauna, European regalia, architectural motifs and works of art historical significance. This exhibition brings together key works in Botha’s career, including commune: suspension of disbelief (2001) and Prism 13 (Dead Pietà) (2015), alongside a new major and immersive installation.
From 13 February to 25 August 2019, Norval Foundation will host an exhibition of David Goldblatt’s photographic series On the Mines. Exhibited as a complete set for the first time, it documents the communities and landscapes associated with the gold mines of Gauteng, South Africa in the 1960s and 1970s. This exhibition will be accompanied by texts written by Nobel Laureate Nadine Gordimer, which sensitively respond to Goldblatt’s photographs.
Norval Foundation has invited Ibrahim Mahama to create a site-sensitive work, which will be exhibited from 13 February to 18 August 2019. Mahama’s practice, predominantly focused on installation and architectural interventions, questions Africa’s role in the global exchange of commodities and the way labour is valued. This is suggested by the materials Mahama employs, such as hessian sacks that bear traces of cocoa production and used shoeshine kits.