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One of Our Oldest Museums Has Some of The Freshest Works Of Art

What to see right now at the South African National Gallery

If your memories of the South African National Gallery and the Company’s Garden, the majestic public grounds that the great gallery overlooks, are limited to school field trips and 50-cent bags of nuts to feed the squirrels, you’re missing out. 

The collections of classical and contemporary art at the gallery are updated frequently, so there’s always something new to discover. Spend a couple of hours in the Gardens and you’ll quickly remember why it in itself is a national treasure.

THREE EXHIBITIONS TO SEE NOW
The collections of classical and contemporary art at the gallery are updated, so there’s always something new to discover. 

A Resilient Visionary: Poetic Expressions of David Koloane
It’s a selection of artworks by the late South African artist and cultural icon David Koloane (died 30 June 2019), curated by artist Thembinkosi Goniwe. It honours Koloane’s 40 years of work, which merges his journey during and after apartheid and his contribution to South African visual art. This will be on until June 2020.

Photograph: Nigel Pamplin. © Iziko Museums of South Africa

Filling The Gaps
It’s a diverse and inclusive collection of prehistoric and contemporary paintings, sculptures, photographs and installations from various artists obtained since 2014. It’s on until 31 October 2019.

Photograph: Marla Burger. © Iziko Museums of South Africa

Hidden Treasures
This display of rare objects from the gallery’s permanent collection of African art showcases some artworks that have never been exhibited before and some that are newly rediscovered. It’s on until 17 September 2019.  

Photograph: Nigel Pamplin. © Iziko Museums of South Africa

OVER 10 000 ARTWORKS 
The South African National Gallery, built from around 1914 to 1930, opened on 3 November 1930 to house paintings from the estate of Thomas Butterworth Bayley, a British magistrate, agriculturist and philanthropist. Seven years later, the building was expanded to make room for more art collections from several African, French, British and Belgian artists.

Today, the gallery is operated by Iziko Museums of South Africa, under which there are 11 in total, including the Bo-Kaap Museum and The Planetarium. It’s an enriching place of a wide variety of historical, modern, and contemporary art from different eras.

here’s more than 10 000 artworks in its permanent collection and an array of temporary collections that are exhibited on rotation through various themed programmes.

It's exhibits indigenous art, works on paper, textiles, beadwork, architecture, sculptures, paintings and photography from established and upcoming artists.

Photograph: Nigel Pamplin. © Iziko Museums of South Africa

OPEN ALL WEEK AND SOME DAYS FREE
It's open Monday to Sunday from 9am to 5pm. On commemorative days such as Worker’s Day and Human Rights Day entrance is free. On regular days, adults pay R30, kids from ages 6–17 pay R15 and 5-year-olds and younger pay R5. Pensioners and students pay R15 and are eligible for free entry on Fridays if they provide valid cards. While school groups who book in advance pay R5 per student, groups who don’t book in advance will pay R8 per student.

Photograph: Nigel Pamplin. © Iziko Museums of South Africa

START OR END AT THE COMPANY’S GARDENS
The Company’s Garden, the public park where the gallery is situated, is equally historic. Originally planted in the 1650s it was fertile ground and used as a refreshment station for settlers taking a break from their sea travels.

You’ll find the Rutherford Fountain, which has been in the Company’s Garden since 1864. There’s also the oldest cultivated tree in the country, the 363-year-old Saffron Pear. Other highlights include the Ginkgo Tree, the Paddock Lane and the Lion’s Gate, which real lions used to lurk behind in the 1800s.

Photograph: Marla Burger. © Iziko Museums of South Africa

The Garden is home to an aviary of different types of birds. You’ll also find the legendary squirrels, pigeons, Egyptian geese, and herons roaming around. Or take a break at the Company’s Garden Restaurant. 

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Take on more adventures with these 15 more inner-city gems to discover

Here are more options for things to do over the weekend

Just around the corner from the South African national Gallery is the Planetarium, which Africa’s most advanced digital dome

A little further on is the Bo-Kaap Museum

If you love museum in general, here’s our list of the most interesting in Cape Town

Did you know you get free entry to Iziko museums during Heritage Month  or about Museum night

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