Gallery 1 & 3

The Art Collection of Huberte Rupert

12 February 2024 - 17 November 2024

  • The Art Collection of Huberte Rupert

This exhibition and the full-colour publication celebrate Huberte Rupert’s art collection of 20th century South African Art. The book features a selection of 100 artworks from the collection, this includes works by both Modern and Contemporary South African artists.

Art critic and writer Amanda Botha gives us insight to Huberte’s art appreciation journey through her involvement as a student, cultivating friendships with local artists, especially her ‘Big Five’ – Irma Stern (1894-1966), Cecil Higgs (1898-1986), Maggie Laubser (1886-1973), Jean Welz (1900-1975) and Anton van Wouw (1862-1945). The selection of works from the collection showcase the development of Modern Art in South Africa ranging from subtle and delicate to colour evocative works exploring materiality and sociopolitical commentary; we see works filled with experimental techniques, that years later became the trademarks of the now internationally acclaimed artists. The exhibition also gives a glimpse into the time and studios of Modern SA Masters and includes the ‘famed’ artist biography films as produced in the early 1960s under the sponsorship of Rembrandt van Rijn cigarettes.

The first rotation in this 9 month exhibition, showcases the ‘Big Five’ in conversation with works acquired from the Award Winners of the Cape Town Triennials (1982–1991), a sponsorship to the arts set out by the Rembrandt van Rijn Art Foundation, the works by Penny Siopis (b1955), Karel Nel (b1950), Stanley Pinker (1924-2012), William Kentridge (b1955), and Wille Bester (b1956) set the scene as a start to the conversation. These iconic, standalone pieces chronicle the journey of our patron Family’s unique style of collecting.

The exhibition extends into an intimate section of personal, archival documents in honour of the artists’ friendships, inclusive of commissions from publications to artworks and museums. The Rupert Family’s appreciation is felt as these documents show a valued opinion and commitment to further and support art in South Africa. Insight is shared in a letter from Jean Welz shown alongside the preparatory work for his 1965 commissioned portrait of Dr Anton Rupert. Buildings such as the John Rupert Theatre, Hester Rupert Art Museum and Jan Rupert Art Centre, each, run programmes and exhibitions for the community. A testament to the dedication to arts and culture by the family in Graaff-Reinet.

The Rupert Museum as conceptualised by Huberte Rupert and her daughter Hanneli Rupert-Koegelenberg in 2003, involved architect Hannes Meiring to design a space for the community, years later with granddaughter Hanneli Rupert-Elias championing the vision of Huberte, the visitor encounters a museum dedicated to its immediate community – providing the space to share in their passion for arts and to contribute to Mrs Rupert-Elias’ philosophy of ‘a Museum without walls’.

The second wing (Gallery 3) showcases modern works as featured in the book. Rotations from the collection will highlight particular works and over the exhibition period these works will engage conversation and tell the stories of how the collection was lovingly built through handpicked unique pieces.

In the current rotation the viewer gets a sense of the South African landscape from a dry pale Derdepoort, Pretoria depicted by Frans Oerder (1867-1944), to the lushness of forests in the Cape by Nita Spilhaus (1878-1967), and the distinctive style of JH Pierneef (1886-1957) in Rustenburg Kloof. The heads by Lucas Sithole (1931-1994) celebrate materiality – working in stone and wood (patinated and buried in a pit fire, then finished in a high polish); with the almost abstract reliquary figure by Ernest Mancoba (1904 – 2002) – free in spirit, these works exemplify African Modernism. The Three Boys by Marianne Podlashuc (1932-2004) published on the cover of ‘Cry my beloved Country’ by Alan Paton, the Penguin edition of 1983, glimpses the stark realities of the powerless and destitute and the surge of revolt as expressed in the black and white charcoal piece by Albert Adams (1929- 2006). Nonetheless, the sculpture by Ezrom Legae (1938-1999) with mother and child lets us view Maud Sumner’s (1902-1985), Dawn over Galilea as a true celebration of nations, fractured yet reaching to harmony. A sentiment explored in saturated colour of the landscape by Eben van der Merwe

The still is contemplated with abstraction, colour blocking, hyper realism and detail as one observes the everyday, sometimes beyond the ordinary in the works of Otto Klar (1908-1994), Gregoire Boonzaier (1909-2005) and Alexis Preller (1911-1975). A moment in the life of an artist and view of the studio is opened by The Studio by Marjorie Wallace (1925-2004), a self-portrait in her Paris studio, living and working amongst artists such as Mancoba and Sumner taking on residencies abroad.

Keep in mind that amongst 100 artworks will be showcased and celebrated in the next 9 months across the museum spaces.
Rotation 1: current – 5 May 2024
Rotation 2: 7 May – 4 August 2024
Rotation 3: 6 August – 17 November 2024

Installation views of works from the collection