South African National Gallery
Although there are over 8,000 artworks within its collection – including examples of South Africa’s specialized indigenous crafts – this remains one of the smallest art galleries in Cape Town, physically limited and able to display only a reduced portion at any given time. Funded with a single bequest in 1872, the government-owned gallery has had to tread carefully due to financial restraints, but is still the finest repository of South African art. While the collection of Dutch and English oil paintings in the Sir Abe Bailey Collection – with English country hunting scenes and dark landscapes in the Italian-French tradition – may strike you as irrelevant, recent acquisitions have focused on contemporary South African art, including work that went unnoticed or was renounced during the Apartheid era, often because of its subject matter or because of the colour of the skin of the artists. Look out for works by such internationally renowned names such as William Kentridge, David Goldblatt, Gerard Sekoto, Jane Alexander, Willie Bester, Jackson Hlungwane, Jacob Hendrik Pierneef (known for his landscapes), Irma Stern, and numerous others. The gallery hosts regular cutting-edge exhibitions that combine national and international artists, often with formidable guest curators from the upper echelons of the contemporary South African art scene – to which the Dada South and Picasso in Africa exhibitions attest.