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Why Hermanus is the province’s untapped art destination
Visit 22 galleries, chat to gallerists, invest in some top local art
Hermanus' art walk starts in an alley with a richly coloured kilim painted on the bricks. On either side of it are galleries, some with paintings and sculptures, others with hand-crafted goods, ceramics and decor objects. Doing the Hermanus art walk – chatting to the gallerists as you go and dropping in at quaint cafes along the way – is a window into the town’s vibrant and productive creative culture.
“Because we have 22 galleries that are in such close proximity to each other, Hermanus is considered to be one of the top art destinations in the Western Cape,” says the owner of Rossouw Modern Art Gallery, Jozua Rossouw.
MUST-DO: ART WALK EVERY MONTH
You’ll feel this creative energy on First Fridays, when all the galleries remain open until 8.30pm and host special exhibitions and serve regional wines and small bites.
Or take a self-guided crawl on any day of the week, using the Art Walk map that is available at all galleries, and rest and refuel at restaurants and cafes along the way.
SEE WORK OF TOP SOUTH AFRICAN ARTISTS
Jozua’s three galleries, one in an old fisherman’s cottage, features work of sought-after established and emerging South African artists. At the time of our visit to SPACE Curated, there is a metal sculpture by Willie Bester titled Nadia, a coily-haired girl who looks like she’s on her way to school, book bag in hand.
At SPACE Modern is William Kentridge’s Xa Xa Xa, a black-and-white linocut with Indian ink on mould made paper, and a Colbert Mashale seven-colour lithograph that depicts the socio-political and socio-economic realities and hypocrisies of post-Apartheid South Africa.
THERE’S ART AT A RANGE OF PRICES
The Start Gallery is a great starting point for up-and-coming collectors, who want to start small, says manager Natasha Steenefeld.
“When you walk into our gallery things might look expensive, but it is not the case. We have works that are worth R20 000 and we also sell art prints that will set you back R1 000,” she says. The more affordable pieces, featuring watercolours, charcoals and oils from young artists trying to establish themselves, are on a clothes hanger-like wall.
The gallery’s best-selling contemporary artist Georgia Lane creates large, abstract paintings and has sold to collectors from New York to London.
MAKE SURE YOU SEE THESE GALLERIES
Hermanus’ Art Walk is divided into three primary areas, the Art Ally and Harbour Road, where you will find eight galleries; the Courtyard in Harbour Road, which has five galleries; and High Street and Main Road, where there are also five galleries.
Gallery de Jongh Gelderblom is in the first area and has intricately woven, imported Persian carpets everywhere. The rich interior frames the work of well-known artist Charmaine De Jongh Gelderblom, who paints portraits, floral stills and scenes from Hermanus’ old harbour. Also in this first area you’ll find Roussouw Modern, Originals Gallery, Studio G, Malcolm Bowling and Lembu Gallery, as well as the two SPACE galleries mentioned above.
MALCOLM BOWLING FOCUSES ON WILDLIFE
If you have an interest in South African wildlife, chat with a former game ranger, now artist and owner of the eponymous gallery, Malcolm Bowling. “After pursuing a fine art degree, I became a game ranger, and would draw the birds that I saw. I grew up in the Eastern Cape, so Nguni cattle are often the subject of my paintings,” says Bowling.
His gallery is also home to the beautiful and intuitive works of Boniface Chikwenhere’s driftwood sculptures and Richard Pullen’s ceramics.
SEE FIVE MORE GEMS IN THE COURTYARD
In the second art area, The Courtyard in Harbour Road, is the entry to the Hermanus outpost of the flagship Cape Town gallery Art@Africa. This inclusive space, which centres around South African identity, houses the works of young and established artists of different socio-economic backgrounds and races.
One could spend hours in this compact, two-story loft, engrossed in David Griesel’s augmented-reality collaboration with computer programmer, Henning Ludeke, or Mpho Mazibuko’s paintings of her relatives on, and accompanied by, throw-away objects that are reminiscent of her upbringing in Turffontein, Rosettenville, informal settlements and Soweto.
Jeweller Geta Finlayson, wife of winemaker Peter Finlayson, says her work is very personal. “I collaborate with my clients to create a piece of jewellery that’s a reflection of their personality, presence and appearance. Each piece is unique but carries my signature style. I use a mix of gold, silver, and semi precious stones to enhance your skin tone, age and your look.”
You’ll also find the galleries The Start, FynArts and Jewellery Art by Simon in The Courtyard.
DON’T MISS INTETHE GALLERY
The smallest gallery on the walk is in Hermanus’ third art area and is dedicated to promoting mostly black, Southern African fine artists. Currently on show at Intethe are charcoal drawings from Polokwane-born Amos Letsoalo, dream-like scenes from Soweto come to life through pastel on paper drawings from Gcina Sam Maduna, and copper-wire-woven female figurines that are seated, praying and playing by Kwa-Zulu Natal artist Lindelani Ngwenya.
Also featured are rose quartz and ironwood sculptures by Shepherd Ndudzo, from Zimbabwe and Botswana, titled The Lovers, Taichi Dancers, and Prayer. And, don’t leave without taking a minute to marvel at Zamani Makhanya’s Cubism sketches of African symbolism and motifs in radiant rainbow colourways.
Other galleries in this area are Pure South, Gallery 19, Art Thirst with resident artist Leon Müller, and Walker Bay Modern.
YOU’LL MEET ARTISTS AND GALLERISTS
The 19th stop of the walk is a deep-blue studio on 19 High Street. The colour of the studio’s exterior is subject to change as the eccentric artist and owner, Jenny Jackson, loves to transform her space - you won’t miss it. Dedicated to her work, the gallery is quite compact, but her range of expressive oils, focusing on portraits and stills, can easily be viewed through the large windows from the sidewalk.
The subject of two well-viewed documentaries on YouTube, All Cats Are Black and Love, Mummy, the British-native-turned-Hermanus-resident is just as exuberant and intriguing as her work. “I arrived here in 2002 and never wanted to leave,“ she says. “My paintings can be found all over the world, which is such a thrill because I’m completely self taught!”
TRY THE MANY EATERIES ALONG THE WAY
Across the road from Intethe, on 26 High Street, is Oskar’s Café and Bakery, serving wholesome baked goods like sourdough bread, crunchy oat cookies, banana loaf and bagels with flavourful fillings. From the French café awnings to the subway tiled walls inside the bakery, almost everything is black and white.
Fisherman’s Cottage is one of Hermanus’ institutions, an eatery in an historical building of the late 1800s. Its focus is primarily seafood, but there are also few meat and vegetarian dishes, as well as a daily blackboard menu. Another good option is The Wine Glass in The Courtyard, where you can pair some of the country’s best wines with either a delicious charcuterie and cheese platter or a main meal.
In the courtyard of Walker Bay Modern Art, a two-story building on 167 Main Road with an extensive art collection – a serious collector’s oasis – is The Gallery Café. Feel the sunlight through the trees and listen to French café music and the chatter of happy patrons. Croissants are what the café is best known for, and there are 14 different fillings on the menu, including Kit Kat and Turkish delight.
For further reading
Enjoy a full weekend of contemporary African art at the Investec Cape Town Art Fair.
Marvel at an iridescent window art display at Norval Foundation.
Watch a sculptor in action at Donald Greig’s Gallery at the V&A Waterfront.
Planning a day trip to Hermanus? Find out what activities the town has on offer in our guide.
Experience the Hermanus at night on First Fridays to see the array of artworks
Explore the Cape Town art scene and socialize with local artists and art lovers at First Thursdays.
From Franschoek to Zonneblom, discover the most unique exhibition spaces in the Cape Town and surrounding regions.
Use our events section for an up-to-date overview of what’s happening in the city, ‘burbs and dorpies. Join our newsletter and get quick access on the go by adding us to your mobile home screen for the ultimate guide to discoveries in Cape Town.