I was recently invited to the opening of an artist friend’s exhibition in Franschhoek. To make a day of it, I asked a girlfriend to join me on the journey – not only to enjoy the Cape Winelands’ fabulous wine and food offerings but also the visual feast on offer through magnificent South African art located at some spectacular galleries in the Winelands. It turned out to be a wonderful excursion.
First up was Cavalli Estate in Stellenbosch located on the R44 coming from Somerset West. Cavalli is the Italian word for horse and the theme is evident throughout the estate. Owned by the Smith family, Cavalli started as a stud farm, housing what must be the most aesthetically pleasing and luxurious stables in the world! As a destination winery it is hard to beat.
The Equus Art Gallery on the estate ‘aims to encourage the local arts through its platforms of public sculpture spaces and a public art gallery.’ From the entrance to the restaurant, one can see Table Mountain in the distance. Enter through the restaurant and across the water is a huge Dylan Lewis sculpture. Down the stairs and carved into the hillside below is the wine tasting room and then an astonishingly large 600 square meter gallery showcasing rotating exhibitions of visiting curators, alongside a permanent exhibition of other notable works from the Cavalli Estate Private Collection. When we visited, the Equus exhibition with a horse theme was coming to an end but we managed to view Janko de Beer’s astonishing Sea Weed horses. The Gallery is open Wednesday to Saturday, 11am to 7pm and Sunday 10am to 5pm. There is no entrance fee.
Our next stop was the Rupert Museum at the entrance to Stellenbosch on Dorp Street. Housed in a custom built space, the Rupert Museum showcases the unique private art collection of billionaires Anton and Huberte Rupert. The walls are literally dripping with the most spectacular South African art – showcasing masters such as Maggie Laubser, Irma Stern, Alexis Preller, Walter Battiss, Jean Welz, and JH Pierneef. In fact the one gallery is dedicated to the original Johannesburg station panels painted by Pierneef in the 1950s and is in itself worth the visit. In addition, there are also major European works by leading sculptors such as Auguste Rodin.
En route to lunch in Franschhoek we stopped at the top of Helshoogte Pass and another billionaire’s dream – this time the awe-inspiring Delaire Graff Estate, which describes itself as ‘South Africa’s premier art, hospitality and wine destination’. Graff is a leading diamond dealer and the boutique jewellery shop off the foyer is dominated by a huge Lionel Smit canvas that is well worth drooling over.. William Kentridge is well represented as are the sculptors Deborah Bell and Anton Smit and Dylan Lewis whose sculptures strategically dot the estate. We were blown away by the latest acquisition called Morpheus a 3 ton mirror-image sculpture of a Malay woman by Lionel Smit.
A visit to the Pierneef Gallery at La Motte on the outskirts of Franschhoek is always worthwhile, but by this stage we were starving and Café Bon Bon at La Petite Dauphine wine farm in Franschhoek proved the perfect spot to linger. The setting on the terrace under the oaks, the red rooster and the timeless feel of the place. Their food is visually presented like art on a plate and was both delicious and fresh.
Before making our way to The Gallery at Grande Provence and my friend’s exhibition we popped in for tea at Sir Richard Branson’s new Cape Winelands hotel, the recently revamped Mont Rochelle, where we discovered the best deal in town. A pot of Earl Grey tea and a large biscotti with a view to die for over the Franschhoek valley for only R15!
We finished off our perfect day with a glass of delicious wine at The Gallery at Grande Provence with its sublime setting. Not only does the gallery exhibit local artists like Angus Taylor, Deborah Bell and Lionel Smit but also emerging artists such as Arabella Caccia as well as artists from Europe and the US.
We drove back to Cape Town having experienced a feast of South African art in spectacular surroundings whilst enjoying world class wine and food. This is is an outing which can be enjoyed all year around come rain or shine.