Fine Wines meet Fine Art at Twee Jonge Gezellen

A sculpture exhibition at the wine farm in Tulbagh brings the gallery space, gardens, and old wine cellars to life.

By James Sey

A new exhibition, titled ‘Seeds of the Fig’, which opened just before the Investec Cape Town Art Fair this year and runs until the end of March, is the latest show at the Krone X What if the World (WITW) Gallery, a collaborative space showcasing African contemporary art at the venerable Twee Jonge Gezellen wine farm in Tulbagh.

This intriguing show, produced by the curatorial platform Reservoir, utilises the amazing centuries-old farm buildings to the best advantage by being focused on sculpture. Outdoor and indoor works bring the gallery space to life, as well as the gardens and even one of the evocative old wine cellars on the farm.

Sculpture is still a relatively unfashionable and niche medium in South African contemporary art, with a few dedicated spaces like the Nirox Sculpture Park in the Cradle of Humankind the rare exception, and Everard Read Gallery being the only major SA commercial gallery specialising in the medium. Properly exhibited and curated, sculpture can elevate any space and the use of this collaborative and beautiful space is an inspired choice to showcase a medium which is nonetheless strong on the South African contemporary scene, despite the relative dearth of exhibition space and collectors.

This new Krone X WITW exhibition showcases some of the best proponents of the medium working in the country right now. It is dominated by the amazing installation of ten outsized wooden sarcophagi by Ghanaian artist Ibrahim Mahama. But the use of concepts and materials is mercurial and seductive across the whole show – from Wim Botha’s assemblage to Serge Alain Nitegeka’s elegant and ongoing investigation of liminal space in his carved wooden piece Liminal Cargo II.

Elsewhere, Cape Town’s Sanell Aggenbach contributes an elegiac flower, carved from wood, and finished with fool’s gold and brass, and contemporary art star Athi Patra Ruga brackets the show with typically bling panache in his Proposed Model of Francois Benga, replete with artificial flowers and jewels. Equally fascinating pieces by well-known local sculptors like Kyle Morland, Asemahle Ntlonti and Richard Forbes round out the show.

Krone X WITW is a wine estate/art gallery collaboration that was established in 2018 at the Twee Jonge Gezellen estate. The farm originally dates to the early 1700s, but only became a wine producer, of the well-known Krone Cap Classique wines, in the 1980s. The collab follows a well-trodden path in the Western Cape region, with Stellenbosch and Franschhoek also boasting contemporary galleries, pop-up art spaces and events combining fine wines and fine art.

The WITW gallery occupies a historic building on the farm, far from the hustle and energy of the contemporary gallery’s existing space in the city of Cape Town. The beautiful, peaceful rural surrounds offer a more contemplative space for artists and collectors alike. The location is also ideal for focused artmaking, so the artist’s residency on the farm was born in 2019. It is an invitation-only residency lasting from 3 to 9 weeks dependent on the artist and is geared either to artistic research or to the production of works, which can be exhibited in the tranquil surroundings of the gallery and garden following the residency.  Previous incumbents include well-known contemporary artists Mia Chaplin and Aggenbach.

To date, the Krone X WITW collab has staged three major group exhibitions after the Covid lockdowns lifted. ‘40 Under 40’, an exhibition of works by 40 artists under the age of 40, opened in 2021, ran for six months, and had an interesting pan-African feel to the selected artists. This included representation from Lakin Ogunbanwo (Nigeria), Stephané Edith Conradie (Namibia), and Ronald Muchatuta (Zimbabwe), among others. Then last year the gallery brought collaborative curatorial partners Reservoir on board to present the group exhibition ‘Home Strange Home’. The same curators have now produced a sophisticated sculpture show which showcases the historical space to the best effect.

If you are in the area around gracious old Tulbagh, a visit to this fascinating exhibition and a glass of famous Krone bubbles seems like a no-brainer!

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