The recent opening of Cape Town’s Zeitz Museum of Contemporary African Art (MOCAA) is set to change the landscape of art and creativity in Africa, but with all the hype you’ll find the queues stretching well past the front doors.

If you’d rather discover existential works with a little elbowroom, the manicured estates of the Cape Winelands offer a surprisingly impressive collection of world-class artwork.

A fine place to start is Cavalli Estate on the outskirts of Stellenbosch, where the Equus Gallery offers an impressive collection of classic and contemporary works. Divided into three distinct galleries, the highlight is the large contemporary space. Rotating exhibitions of local and international artists are shown throughout the year, from retrospectives to conceptual works. Alongside the modern space the Cavalli Estate Private Collection is dedicated specifically to iconic South African artists, and while the works rotate regularly you can expect to find famous names including Pierneef, Stern and Tretchikoff.

Bushveld trees (1955)
Bushveld trees (1955)

There’s a similar mix of classic and contemporary on offer at Delaire Graff, perched high on the Helshoogte Pass above Stellenbosch.

While the luxury hotel and award-winning restaurants are reason enough to visit, the spectacular works collected by owner Laurence Graff make this a must for any art-lover.

Dylan Lewis Sculptures

Scattered between the winery, hotel, restaurants and manicured gardens, you’ll find everything from bronze cats by local sculptor Dylan Lewis to the world-famous ‘Chinese Girl’ by Tretchikoff. When enjoying a tasting in the Wine Lounge, don’t miss out on admiring the often-overlooked collaborative work by Robert Hodgins, William Kentridge and Deborah Bell.

There’s more iconic Kentridge in the main restaurant, while at the Asian-inspired Indochine the dramatic ‘Swallows in Flight’ by Lionel Smit and Andre Stead soars above the fetching blue leather booths.

Just across the hillside at TOKARA winery, the small gallery space curated by Julia Meintjes is refreshed quarterly with both historic and contemporary exhibitions. Up the hill at the more casual TOKARA Delicatessen an outdoor sculpture garden showcases striking works by local artists.

Heading east, the Franschhoek valley is famous for its gastronomic attractions, but it should be just as well regarded for its art collections.

Anton Smit's Faith sculptures line the driveway of the Estate
Anton Smit’s Faith sculptures line the driveway of the Estate
Anton Smit's Stone head
Anton Smit’s Stone head

The Gallery at Grande Provence gives the wine and cuisine a run for its money, with a carefully curated assemblage of South African and foreign artists. A highlight for 2017 will be a solo exhibition by Anton Smit, one of South Africa’s leading sculptors.

La Motte Syrah Studio
La Motte Syrah Studio

For travellers passionate about sculpture, the weekly guided Sculpture Walk on La Motte estate is unmissable. The estate is famous for its outdoor sculpture collection, from the dramatic Wine Bearer greeting visitors to the lesser-known works evoking the history of the estate. After the walk, stop in at the impressive gallery dedicated to Jacob Hendrik Pierneef. One of South Africa’s great master painters, Pierneef was particularly famous for his iconic imagery of South African landscapes.

La Motte Museum Pierneef exhibition
La Motte Museum Pierneef exhibition

In Franschhoek itself, the village streets are lined with small galleries, but it’s worth the short detour out to Leeu Estates. Alongside discovering the superb wines of Mullineux & Leeu Family Wines and the cuisine of chef Oliver Cattermole, the estate boasts a superb range of artworks that bring the manicured gardens to life.

The irreverent ‘Thinking Hare’ by Guy du Toit is hugely Instagrammable; it’s also impossible not to be impressed by ‘Artemis & Dog I-III’ that dominates the main lawns in front of the manor house. My favourite, though? A massive, stone-headed statue entitled, simply, ‘Sit’.

It’s as fine a place as any to kick back and ponder the wonderful creativity and artwork on display in the Cape winelands.


Richard Holmes
Richard Holmes is a freelance travel, food and lifestyle writer based in Cape Town, South Africa. His work on African and international destinations has appeared in a wide range of consumer publications both in South Africa and abroad.