Iziko South African National Gallery Breaks Down the Walls at the Cape Town Art Fair


Art gives air to a multitude of ideas, thoughts, rituals and traditions. Woven together, these are the elements that enhance diversity but also social cohesion – many stories, many people with different views are the key to a rich and interesting society.

Iziko Museums of South Africa is committed to reactivating Iziko into a vibrant, inspiring hub of exploration, discovery and learning and making our museums accessible to all. A first for the Iziko South African National Gallery (ISANG), Iziko exhibited at the Investec Cape Town Art Fair from 17-19 February 2023 as part of our own continued efforts to reach out beyond the walls of the gallery. The Investec Cape Town Art Fair, although a commercial art fair, is an extraordinary showcase that draws 23,000 visitors and hosts around 100 galleries (57 of which are from the African continent).

Iziko Museums of South Africa brought a public art museum’s perspective to the Festival.

Iziko’s stand at the 2023 Investec Cape Town Art Fair Nigel Pamplin © Iziko Museums of South Africa.

The Iziko South African National Gallery is a public space and a place for all to engage with South Africa’s art history and recognise the need for a national gallery to break down its own walls and engage in partnerships across the public and private sector. The Iziko collections are considered for their artistic and cultural value, forming part of an evolving story (and not the only one) of art collecting in South Africa.

Iziko is committed to ensuring that the story of the majority of South Africans is foregrounded in our museum spaces and offerings, making visible the marginalised and excluded. Our conversation with our communities are evolving too. A new exhibition: The Evolution of Indigenous Art will juxtapose contemporary indigenous artworks with San and Khoe rock art from the Later Stone Age. The exhibition will be housed in the |Qe Power of Rock Art Gallery at the Iziko South African Museum from 1 March to 31 August 2023. This showcase explores art by contemporary indigenous descendants and how their practices have continued through time.

The 2023 International Public Art Festival takes place in the Company’s Garden from 1-5 March. We hope visitors will take advantage of the opportunity to enjoy the contrast of the public art experience with that in the ISANG’s current exhibition Breaking Down the Walls which marks 150 years of art collecting at Iziko.

Also open to the public is —defunct context |U406 Pavillion Prototype, a research project by Dr George Mahash. Hosted in collaboration with Iziko, the installation takes place in the garden of the Iziko Betram House, located on Hidding Campus. The Pavilion will morph towards a camera obscura installation, inviting and accepting interventions by visitors occupying it as a space of pause, play or rehearsal. It is the curiosity of the public, whomever they might be, that shapes it. U406 Pavilion Prototype 2 asks if we can transform the inherited colonial museum while still stuck in the same colonial infrastructures that sought to marginalise us. The installation is an experiment in the making of public spaces, supported by the UCT NRF BAAP grant and NIHSS Catalytic Research grant and Vice Chancellor’s 2030 Future Leaders Project.

Whether inside or outside, access is at the heart of what Iziko does. By bringing young audiences (come and see our new Children’s Gallery) from diverse backgrounds to the gallery we’re exposing audiences to excellence, igniting dreams and planting the seeds of a cultural tomorrow.


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