Contemporary African art museum opens in former Cape Town grain silo

By Adrian Murphy. Main Image: The Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa, Cape Town. Photograph by Iwan Baan

The Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (Zeitz MOCAA), will open to the public on Friday at Cape Town’s Victoria & Albert Waterfront and become the world’s largest museum dedicated to contemporary art from Africa and its diaspora

We have been given an opportunity to create a museum for all, and we must guarantee Access for All. The right to cultural participation and access to the artefacts that represent our diverse cultures is deeply rooted in human rights. This is a principle that Zeitz MOCAA will uphold, defend and keep as a central mission of its reason for being.

Mark Coetzee, Executive Director and Curator of Zeitz MOCAA

The Zeitz MOCAA is housed in the monumental structure of the historic Grain Silo Complex, disused since 1990 and at one time the tallest building in South Africa.  Now given new life through the transformation by the UK’s Heatherwick Studio, the old silo complex offers a generous 9,500 sq m of space spread over nine floors.

Originally built in 1921 and standing at 57m in its highest parts, the new museum galleries and the atrium space at the centre of the museum have been carved from the silos’ dense cellular structure of forty-two tubes that pack the building.

The new art gallery has repurposed a piece of Cape Town's industrial heritage in a cultural space for all

The four-year development includes 6,000 sq metres of exhibition space in 80 gallery spaces, a rooftop sculpture garden, modern storage and conservation areas, a bookshop, a restaurant, bar, and reading rooms. The museum will also house Centres for a Costume Institute, Photography, Curatorial Excellence, the Moving Image, Performative Practice and Art Education.


Zeitz Mocaa includes 6,000 sq metres of exhibition space in 80 gallery spaces

“By repurposing our architectural heritage through an evocative juxtaposition of industrial design and contemporary art, we are creating a culturally significant institution of a scale that truly recognises the creative talents of Africa,” said Mark Coetzee, Executive Director and Curator of Zeitz MOCAA. “We have worked tirelessly with Heatherwick Studio to imagine a showcase for all the components of a functioning contemporary art museum, designed to allow the public direct access to, and engagement with, the most cutting edge artistic practice.”

Material Value. by Nandipha Mntambo (Swaziland)

The £30m development of Zeitz MOCAA, announced in November 2013, has been created in a partnership between the V&A Waterfront and Jochen Zeitz, founder of the Zeitz Foundation for Intercultural Ecosphere Safety, with his art collection acting as the founding collection of the museum and as a not-for-profit public cultural institution. Set on the edge of a natural, historic working harbour, with the iconic Table Mountain as its backdrop the V&A Waterfront attracts up to 100,000 visitors a day.

“We were excited by the opportunity to unlock this formerly dead structure and transform it into somewhere for people to see and enjoy the most incredible artworks from the continent of Africa,” said Thomas Heatherwick, Founder of Heatherwick Studio. “As the opening approaches we are all looking forward to witnessing the impact of the museum’s ambitious artistic programme and the museum taking its pivotal place in the middle of Africa’s cultural infrastructure.”

Centre for the Moving Image

The Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa will open to the public during South African Heritage Weekend 2017, holding a four-day Grand Opening from Friday, September 22 to Monday, September 25. During this time, no entrance fee will be charged.