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The Rupert Museum


In Stellenbosch, a town that offers so much culturally, it takes a lot to stand out. The Rupert Museum, located in the middle of vineyards at the bottom end of Dorp Street, makes a statement both by its stunning design and the art treasures it holds. Completed in 2005 after the late Huberte Rupert briefed architect Hannes Meiring to give shape to her vision of having an art museum to house the family’s considerable collection, this urban gem offers a sense of peace and tranquillity, far removed from the busy surroundings.

Hannes Meiring was asked to create a building that was representative of all Stellenbosch has to offer: Boland architecture embracing the architectural history, the wine industry and the natural beauty of the place. The simple H-shaped building, which is white washed with a grey corrugated iron roof, offers light and space inside.

Large oval windows on the upper reaches of the roughly-textured walls breathe a sense of air and natural light. It was Huberte’s dream to fill each of the three halls with the works that she and husband Anton started collecting since the early 1940s.

Officially opened in February 2005, the Rupert Museum now shows the best of South African artists such as Maggie Laubser, Irma Stern, Alexis Preller, Walter Battiss, Elza Dziomba, Jean Welz, JH Pierneef, Lippy Lipshitz, Moses Kotler, Anton van Wouw and Coert Steynberg. In addition, there are also major European works by leading sculptors such as Auguste Rodin and Käthe Kollwitz, as well as French tapestries by Jean Lurçat.

To many art lovers another highlight of a visit to the Rupert Museum will be the exhibition of JH Pierneef’s Station Panels – considered to mark the highpoint of his career. This national treasure, the property of the Transnet Foundation, was recently relocated from Graaff-Reinet to Stellenbosch where they now fill one of the three galleries at the museum.

Pierneef was commissioned by the then South African Railways and Harbours to paint panels depicting places of natural beauty and historical value for the new Johannesburg Station in 1929. The architecture of the concourse specifically included spaces for the panels to be affixed. This determined both the size and number of the panels – 32 in total.

He completed the panels over three years, working on them in groups, as his studio could not accommodate them all at once. Twenty-eight panels are of landscapes and the remaining four of indigenous trees.

Twelve of the 32 panels are Transvaal scenes – clearly a region much loved by Pierneef. He also had a preference for South West Africa (now Namibia) that, at the time, was administered by South Africa and regarded as part of it. The two Namibian panels are of Karibib and Okahandja, important stations on the railway line between Windhoek and Swakopmund.

rupert2Fittingly one of the panels is of a Stellenbosch scene. It depicts Jonkershoek farm with the landmark Twin’s Peak in the background. A favourite of many Pierneef aficionados is the panel titled Karoo. The quiet lines of this farmyard scene suggest the utter silence often associated with this dry region.

Other exhibit on view is The Bigger Picture which shows selected works from the permanent collection, many of these were acquired during the Cape Town Triennial Period in the 1980s and 90s.The Triennial was a competition for emerging artists working in the field of contemporary art and resulted in a travelling exhibition that toured the country with the support of the Rembrandt van Rijn Art Foundation and various art museums around South Africa. In this tumultuous time of South Africa’s political history the project gave voice to young artists. It produced both great enthusiasm and heated debate alike. It shows key works from artists like Stanley Pinker, Penny Siopis, Willie Bester, William Kentridge and others.

In the passage area are Works on Paper and international sculptures by Rodin and Bourdelle. Here contemporary South African works on paper are hanging with modern international sculpture. Antoine Bourdelle was an assistant of Auguste Rodin in his studio in Toulouse in France in 1893. While both artists strove for a construction of form that centred on anatomical modelling, Bourdelle began to simplify the planes of construction of the human form. The works on paper shows interesting works from artists like Marion Arnold, Helen Sebidi, Penny Siopis, Bonnie Ntshalintshali, Peter Shu?tz and others.

The Rupert Museum is an item on many a local’s must-do list. This season these exhibitions are sure to entice many visitors to tick off this item. Another visit is certainly on our list.


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