Visual Bliss at The Norval Foundation

The Norval Foundation is the new go-to art museum for everyone that loves art and outings that’ll excite you visually. Opened on 28 April 2018, the museum designed by local talent, DHK Architects, is already making strides for its world class art galleries and architecture. Situated in the Steenberg (Tokai) area, the building and all it holds is full of beauty, completing the natural surroundings.

The initial funders of the Norval Foundation are none other than the Norval family. Their aim is to make art widely accessible to local and international visitors, by creating a self-sustainable centre for art. It is a small museum compared to others of its standard, but even on a smaller scale, the Norval Foundation offers world class galleries.

Walking into the gallery area, your attention immediately flies toward the giant maze-like entrance. The entrance to the galleries is a space the foundation uses for an annual statement installation art piece. This year, you get to marvel at a piece called Structural Response III, by Serge Alain Nitegeka. Hearing the story of the artist and the piece you can almost understand his journey.

The Norval Foundation is aimed at helping and improving a whole list of things, including, but not limited to, art and the environment. With regard to art, they are dedicated to researching and exhibiting 20th- and 21st-century art from South Africa and beyond. There is always a majority of African art exhibited as a way to further support art in Africa.

Situated in a wetland, there were various aspects that had to be considered when designing the foundation. The site for the building lies between a busy and road and the wetlands. Therefore, all the galleries were designed to face the wetland, including a view of the mountain and vineyards. The building therefore blocks the view of the road from the wetland which in turn creates a serene setting for their sculptural garden and the grounds, as landscaped by Keith Kirsten International.

The architecture and design of the building even aimed to better the environment, and that it did. It was designed to have a minimal environmental impact, complete with a solar plant on the roof that even feeds excess energy into the local power grid, and a grey-water purification system. The Norval Foundation has also become somewhat of a guardian and protector of its indigenous plants and animals. The wetland at the foundation is home to the western leopard toad. This species of toad has been under threat over the years due to the fact that they travel to find spaces to breed. They are known for crossing the large Steenberg Road and often not making it to the other side, which is where the Norval Foundation is located. Therefore, concrete culverts were constructed underneath the Steenberg road to allow the toads safe travels “across” the road to mate in the wetlands on site.

The sculptural garden, that is more the size of a small park, is a space you can walk through for hours, with so much to see. Apart from that, there is the obvious mountain and vineyard views, as well as the Norval Foundation’s building itself. The garden also boasts an outdoor amphitheatre.

The Norval Foundation also features a private gallery for functions, a shop, and the Skotnes Restaurant and Bar. The Skotnes was named after the legendary South African artist, Cecil Skotnes, and the interior en décor suits that of a world class art museum. Overlooking the wetland and sculptural garden, it is a venue to unwind over a glass of wine from the astounding wine list, which even features their own house wine, and feasting on some of the delicious food. The menu is by Chef Phil de Villiers, with adaptations of traditional South African cuisine. An absolute highlight for me was the divine mushroom soup starter.

The Norval Foundation has made a clear mark in the industry. The detail and effort put into creating this high-quality foundation, whilst remaining philanthropic, is an absolute wonder. If not visiting for the art, the restaurant is the perfect place to also show your support.

Admission into the galleries is R140 for adults and free for under-18s. On Mondays admission is free, but donations are encouraged. For more information, you can visit their website at www.norvalfoundation.org, or you can find them on social media to stay up to date with their events and happenings.