For the past four years, famed British architect Thomas Heatherwick has been transforming an abandoned 1920s grain silo along Cape Town’s bustling Victoria & Alfred Waterfront into one of the world’s most highly anticipated additions to the cultural landscape: the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (MOCAA). When it opens on September 22, the towering 100,000-square-foot space will be the first major museum in Africa dedicated to contemporary art and the largest museum to open on the continent in more than a century.
Few museum openings have generated this much buzz in years, and for good reason. The MOCAA doesn’t just give Cape Town an appropriately grandiose cultural complement to its dramatic setting—it’s a distinctly African answer to New York’s MoMA or London’s Tate. By opening a world-class venue that showcases modern African art, artists from across the continent may no longer be as reliant on outside venues to display their work.
“This is a museum for Africa and African artists, and so the fact that it’s being presented on this continent is hugely important,” Jochen Zeitz, the former CEO of Puma and conservationist who lent his name—and vast private collection—to the museum, tells Condé Nast Traveler. “Africa has often been defined by outsiders, but this museum gives artists an opportunity to tell their own stories, and provides a different context and perspective for viewers.”
When it debuts, the $38 million institution will house one of the largest collections of contemporary African art in the world, comprising more than 100 galleries over nine floors and filled entirely with pieces created since 2000. While many of the world’s major museums tend to present African art in a purely historical perspective, Zeitz and the MOCAA’s director, South African Mark Coetzee, were adamant about reversing this narrative. Remarkably, the two only started accumulating this vast collection nine years ago, often acquiring entire exhibitions with the plan of one day opening a museum. When the historic Waterfront complex became available in the heart of Africa’s most visited tourist site, they knew they’d found the right fit. Read more