The New Church is the first privately owned, non-commercial contemporary art museum in South Africa. It was opened in November 2012 to showcase a significant private collection of contemporary South African and African art, and to make art more accessible to the public.
The New Church invites guest curators to showcase different aspects of their collection. The first exhibition at the museum was Subject as Matter by Penny Siopis (15 November 2012 – 29 June 2013), followed by Kirsty Cockerill’s Pop Goes the Revolution (10 October 2013 – 1 April 2014).
We chatted to them about the museum, the collection, and their plans for the future:
What’s the story behind the name?
The building is located in New Church Street, but the name also refers to a place where we can come to reflect.
Why do you collect art?
We believe that art has tremendous positive social benefits- art facilitates the examination of societies’ values and norms by people who have generally not been co-opted into the power structures of politics and business. This is a function which is not always well supported by those in power, thus the private collector can play an important role in developing our ability to look at ourselves, critically.
Even more importantly though, art can also simply be beautiful to experience – thus providing even more social benefit.
The collection is around 400 works. The initial focus was on contemporary South African art, but over time has expanded to include Modern South African art and now contemporary African art. There are no exact criteria for selecting works, except that they must add value to the collection or to the exhibitions that we show.
How does the building and location affect the dynamics of the museum?
The building is a renovated 1890’s Victorian house with a ‘White cube’ extension. The ‘White cube’ space is of course the perfect backdrop for contemporary art, while the smaller rooms in the old house provides intimate spaces for quiet reflection.
The building is in close proximity to other art spaces such as SMAC Gallery and the new Brundyn+, as well as UCT’s Michaelis and City Varsity which makes it central, and ideal for student groups to visit.
Tell us about the concept behind The New Church, and what you aim to achieve with this museum.
The purpose of the museum is to provide free public access to a selection of contemporary art.
We invite guest curators to showcase different aspects of the collection through temporary exhibitions. The collection itself reflects the diversity of contemporary art in South Africa and Africa and each curator is able to draw out something different.
The New Church aims to be run entirely non-commercially, reflecting my own tastes, as modified (much for the better!) by guest curators.
Who contributed to the design, layout and set-up of the space?
The building was restored and designed by the architect Gert De Wett, and the interior was designed by Ilse Van Staden and Thelma Scheepers.
Any plans for the future- short-term and long term?
We will keep Pop Goes the Revolution open until the end of March in celebration of Cape Town as World Design Capital for 2014, and we also are busy planning an exhibition which will give visibility to art and artists outside of the collection.
Find The New Church at 102 New Church Street, Tamboerskloof, Cape Town.
Open Tuesdays and Thursdays 12h00 – 15h00 and Saturdays 11h00 – 15h00.
Visit their website for more information.