Why This New Art Museum Competes With Zeitz MOCAA

Norval Foundation Museum
Norval Foundation Museum | © Norval Foundation
Cape Town’s art scene has seen somewhat of a reinvigoration with the recent opening of the Zeitz MOCAA at the V&A Waterfront. Just seven months after its opening, a stunning new museum, called the Norval Foundation, is giving the Zeitz MOCAA a run for its money.

The Norval Foundation opened its doors at the end of April 2018, and although located some 30 minutes away in the tranquil suburb of Steenberg, many are drawing comparisons to the Zeitz MOCAA.

Norval Foundation Museum © Norval Foundation

Remarkable building and art collections

The museum building and setting are as much a part of the experience as the artwork that it contains. The 10,500-square-meter Norval Foundation museum is equally striking, though markedly different, as its Zeitz MOCAA counterpart.

Instead of a bustling working dock and industrial silos, the Norval Foundation has the serene Table Mountain and pristine vineyards. Outside the museum is a small nature reserve and a sculpture park.

Inside, the museum aims to showcase the best South African contemporary art, as well as a selection of international pieces that are in tune with the country. Large-scale installations, such as those by Serge Alain Nitegeka, highlight a small part of the stress and anxiety faced by refugees forced to cross borders, and are already eliciting excited responses from critics.

Norval Foundation Museum © Norval Foundation

Financed by property investor

The gallery has been financed by property investor Louis Norval, who has established a capital fund in order to sustain it until other revenue streams come on board. Aside from admission fees, these will be a gift shop, bar, and restaurant.

The Norval family has an extensive collection of art, including the notable Homestead Art Collection, and the works on display will come from both his and other private collections. The displays will draw on various themes, including spirituality and social and political commentary.

Norval Foundation Museum © Norval Foundation

The museum will also provide a space for performance art, with its opening marked by a series that examines black identities and queer art, organized by Khanyisile Mbongwa. They also intend on hosting a series of concerts at the venue, curated by musician Kyle Shepherd. These will cover a variety of genres, from jazz and folk to rock and electronic.

Staff defecting from Zeitz MOCAA

At least two of the newest staff members at the Norval Foundation have come directly from the Zeitz MOCAA at the Waterfront, including Chief Curator Owen Martin and Director of Institutional Advancement and External Affairs Elana Brundyn, who will serve as the new museum’s executive director.

Norval Foundation Museum © Norval Foundation

The Norval Foundation museum opened several months after the Zeitz MOCAA, but the founder claims that it was in the works before the Zeitz MOCAA was even announced. Although the two museums offer two very distinct gallery spaces in two very different parts of Cape Town, it’s easy to see their near-simultaneous launches as a true sign of the revitalization of the local art scene.