Hundreds of works that tell some of South Africa’s stories populate the lofty walls and airy exhibit spaces of single-story Cape Dutch-style South African National Gallery. The art here starts before you enter – intricately-carved scenes on the Burmese teak courtyard doors were crafted by an early 20th century artist and British colonial administrator. Inside, similarly carved panels by the same artist, line entryways that lead to thousands of paintings, photographs, unusual sculptures, architectural elements, dyed and woven fabrics and written and sketched paper works –collections that span colonial history through the present day.
In addition to African, South African and apartheid art, the museum also has a large collection of British, French, Dutch and Flemish pieces. Perhaps the gallery’s most famous modern piece is the three alien-esque seated Butcher Boys crafted of plaster and animal horns by South African artist Jane Alexander.
In addition to its permanent collections, the space regularly hosts popular temporary exhibits by emerging and eminent local artists. Still, it’s possible to take in everything in about two hours. Afterward, the National Gallery’s setting affords a continuation for your pensive mood – many opt for a post-visit stroll in the adjacent (and free) Company’s Gardens with views of Table Mountain, a rose pond, 8,000 species of plants, fish pond and aviary.
The South African National Gallery is located in the middle of Government Avenue in the City Center; it is behind the South African Museum & Planetarium and accessible via taxi or the
Annandale bus. The gallery is open daily from 10 a.m. til 5 p.m. except major holidays. Admission is R 30 for adults, R 15 for kids ages 6-18 and children under 5 are free. A family ticket, which includes admission for two adults and two children, can be purchased for the discounted rate of R 75.