Art News South Africa

A democratic celebration of art - Zeitz MOCAA reopens with inclusive Cape Town exhibition, 'Home Is Where The Art Is'

Traditionally, formal galleries have been, with reason, perceived as being elitist, highbrow and specifically tailored to the art crowd and, for the most part, there has been a clear intentional distinction between a fine artist with a degree and home artists, hobbyists and crafters. 'White Cube' snobbery if you like, trust me, I know, Michaelis School of Fine Art 2006 graduate self-admitted art snob right here!
Zeitz MOCAA - © Hufton+Crow
Zeitz MOCAA - © Hufton+Crow

However, in a watershed moment for such a prestigious museum, and one to note that has received a fair amount of criticism for being elitist in its formative days, Zeitz MOCAA has most certainly read the global room and turned that way of thinking on its head, quite literally. And it is spectacular!

‘A love letter to Cape Town’

The Zeitz MOCAA team has firmly shifted the direction from elitist to inclusive when it comes to the ethos behind the museum and celebrated the reopening of the establishment after seven months of Covid-19 lockdown with Home Is Where The Art Is, Art Is Where the Home Is, an exhibition for Capetonians by Capetonians, and a true ‘love letter to the city’.
As part of a re-positioning and re-articulation of the role of our institution, this exhibition marks a transformative shift in how Zeitz MOCAA engages with audiences and foregrounds the creativity and diversity of those in Cape Town.” - Koyo Kouoh, executive director and chief curator at Zeitz MOCAA
And by inclusive they really mean inclusive, a call was sent out to the people of Cape Town offering them a chance to exhibit at the museum through a free and online submission process followed by multiple drop-off points around the city, and all, bar a few works for defamatory or practical reasons, were accepted and exhibited. A true democratisation of art that sees, for example, a four-year-old’s 'masterpiece' displayed alongside an established artist who may sell their works for thousands of rands. Each entrant also received a free entry pass valid for three months from the opening date on the 22 October - a brilliant marketing strategy that has seen thousands flock to the museum to seek out their works or works of loved ones and more often than not share the images via social media. 

Common themes and skilled curatorship 

Nearly 2,000 artworks were submitted and one would rightfully feel that an exhibition of such magnitude and diversity might be an overwhelmingly higgledy-piggledy mess. However, the team of 11 curators have certainly earned their titles and, in a relatively short time period (around two weeks!), organised and displayed the works most thoughtfully. Noticing common themes and subject matter during the entry process the curatorial team grouped the works into distinct categories, i.e. The Garden, Inside, Outside, Relations and Time. These themes are then grouped via different rooms across the third floor of the museum, with artworks displayed salon-style - from floor to ceiling.

'Home Is Where The Art Is' - Relations
'Home Is Where The Art Is' - Relations
"The Garden explores the life of plants, growth, cultivation and labour; Outside, encompasses landscape and public space; Inside, includes interiors, domestic space and inner psychological states; Time, notes the march from moment to moment and abstract expressions; and Relations, celebrates interconnectedness, relationships and communities."
'Home Is Where The Art Is' - The Garden
'Home Is Where The Art Is' - The Garden

There is much to see and it is an exhibition that is ideally visited more than once as new treasures would be found on each walk-through. Treasures such as a poignant tribute triptych - a submission by a loving partner of the last three works a woman created before her recent passing, an onsite mural, a lockdown countdown, a humorously placed portrait of Nelson Mandela laughing in the direction of a depiction of Trump spewing what I assume is excrement, a collection of drawings - one for each day of the lockdown. Countless more paintings, sculptures, installations, photographs, tapestries and drawings jostle for attention yet complement each other in a refreshingly ego-free way.

© Ruth Cooper

Each work just bears a unique number so if visitors want more info on the work and artist they can access this via a QR code that once scanned takes you to the full list of artists and works on dislpay.

Home Is Where The Art Is, Art Is Where the Home Is is a balm to the predominantly all-around awful year that 2020 has been and soothes shattered nerves and uplifts spirits in truly heart-warming ways. It is on till the 10 January 2021 and if you haven’t seen it yet I urge you to do so.

View gallery

Running concurrently is Line in the Sand, an experimental open-studio project by Cape Town artist Haroon Gunn-Salie. The museum is open 10am–6pm, Thursday to Sunday. Tickets bought during October and November will be valid for three months and can be used for multiple visits; masks must be worn throughout your visit For more visit

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