The tree-lined path leading to the manor house at Boschendal must rank among the most Instagrammed of the Cape Winelands. These days, however, stepping through the door of that historic Cape Dutch building brings an unexpected scene.
Inside, visitors are greeted by a dramatic visual display of art and a gift shop. Take a stroll outside to find oversized sculptures now adorning its various secluded nooks. This latest development now adds further attraction to a winelands destination popular as a function venue and for amongst others, luxury overnight stays, mountain-biking, and leisure and fine dining.
It was in November that Boschendal farm and the Cape-based art organisation, Norval Foundation, announced their formal partnership. Under the agreement, a series of satellite art exhibitions are to be presented in the farm’s old H-shaped manor, built in the 1800s. The first year’s programme will draw on the Norval Foundation’s Homestead Collection, which features artists from across Africa, but with a strong southern Africa representation. Exhibitions will rotate every three to four months and admission is free.
Employing the heritage building this way required the involvement of architectural consultants to “restore and shape” the space for exhibitions and retail purposes, says a corporate media release. Temporary structures were erected inside the premises with the drawing-room transformed into a gallery. The kitchen and bedroom involved refitting as retail space. Lighting and flooring tweaks were made to the dining and reception rooms to provide additional display space as well.
The gallery opened in December featuring works by designer and sculptor Githan Coopoo; visual activist Zanele Muholi; Kyle Morland; and Edoardo Villa.
All changes are intended to be temporary, with the building being as much of the exhibition as the artworks themselves.
The Boschendal werf, which is in the Dwarsrivier Valley between Stellenbosch and Franschhoek, was declared a national monument in 1979. Its history dating to the late 1600s is well-documented and it has emerged as not only a well-supported family destination but also a premier wine producer. In addition to various ranges of still wines, Boschendal also makes award-winning Cap Classique and has its own pot-still brandy.
The enterprise is owned by a consortium of investors who acquired it in 2012.
It was a few years later, in 2018, that the Norval family established its eponymous foundation with a focus on the research, education, and exhibition of 20th and 21st-century visual art. Its centre of operations, including the main gallery, amphitheatre, restaurant, and sculpture garden, is located in Tokai.