From Spier's public spaces to displays in the Manor House and wine shop, art is as much part of Spier as good food and fine wine is. Its collection of contemporary South African art is one of the largest of its kind in the country. These are our top 10 favourite artworks on the farm:
1. The Dying Slave by Marco Cianfanelli
Where: On the walkway between the hotel and conference venue
When seen from a specific vantage point, the nine columns making up this large mosaic work line up revealing the complete image of The Dying Slave. Designed by Cianfanelli, the image was inspired by Michelangelo’s well-known artwork featuring a male slave in the ecstatic throes of dying.
The staggered placement of the columns invites visitors to interact and circulate through the artwork. Mirror images of The Dying Slave are installed back-to-back, one a “positive” image and the other a “negative” inversion of the same image. Over the course of five months, 10 mosaic artists cut 225 000 tesserae (mosaic pieces) by hand. The more than 1500kg of material included natural materials (such as limestone, marble, granite, pebbles) as well as industrial glass, porcelain, ceramics and Venetian glass.
Cianfanelli earned a distinction in Fine Art from Wits and has had five solo exhibitions. His numerous awards include the 2002 ABSA L’Atelier.
2. Vortex by Richard Forbes
Where: On the lawns near the wine collection point
This installation is a physical expression of energy, unseen force and the wind that makes a storm to create a vortex. It symbolises the twist of the fabric of life which could be a portal to an alternate dimension, a wormhole through time and a fresh perspective.
Richard John Forbes lives and works in Johannesburg as a visual artist. He has had seven solo exhibitions both at home and abroad, and participated in over 20 group shows. There is a broad range in Richard’s practice always aiming to expand the experiential and engage his audience actively in the process.
3. Creative Block Project
Where: Tasting Room, Spier Hotel foyer
The Creative Block project gives opportunities to artists of outstanding talent, some well known and others newly discovered. This is achieved on an on-going basis by providing artists with blank blocks, to be transformed in any media they wish. More than 150 artists have contributed to the project with roughly 60 artists submitting works monthly. To hone their creative nous, artists are given critical feedback when presenting their work; the best pieces are bought immediately.
The Creative Block is a gateway between creative realms – connecting artist and art collector. It provides artists with a constant source of due acknowledgement, and collectors with an accessible means to acquiring one-off quality works of art to create unique collections. Blocks can also be exchanged — which invites creative play as collectors arrange, rearrange and add new blocks to their collections. The project inspired Spier’s award-winning Creative Block wine range.
The artworks are for sale at R1500.
4. Recycled Chandelier by Heath Nash
Where: Tasting Room
The chandelier above the Tasting Room’s counter was created by artist Heath Nash from 334 recycled wine bottles, and weighs about 370kg.
The visually striking work embodies Spier’s commitment to a sustainable future. The farm recycles all of its wastewater (at its eco-friendly treatment plant), recycles all of its organic waste and more than 97% of its solid waste.
Nash studied fine art at the University of Cape Town and went on to established his own design studio where he and his team create beautiful lighting and homeware products – predominantly using recycled materials.
5. Altered Yarns by Tamlin Blake
Where: Location: Eight Restaurant
This collection of tapestry artworks was created by Tamlin Blake. A professional multi-media South African artist based in Riebeek West, Blake was a participant of the Spier Arts Patronage Programme that provides long-term support to exceptional artists. Using a homemade spindle, she spun dyed sheets of newspaper cut into thin strips to create a textured yarn.
Mirroring this intricate process, Blake’s works explore the many ways in which our lives are shaped by the stories of others.
“I am interested in working, visually and conceptually, with how stories weave themselves around us, influencing what we do and how we think. Without us being aware, the news, gossip and other peoples’ successes and tragedies form the background fabric of our everyday lives. These stories filter through to us, affect our thinking and form the backbone of our society,” she says. “Tapestry itself is traditionally a form of story telling. Like the newspaper they are printed on, these used and discarded tales have been reinvented and recycled, woven back and forth in an intricate pattern to form images, which then in turn create a new contemporary narrative.'
6. Wild Dogs I & II by Liza Grobler in collaboration with Qubeka Bead Studio
Where: Hotel Foyer
Grobler blurs the traditions of craft and fine art, breathing new life into discarded, mass-produced materials through traditional craft techniques like crochet, beading and weaving. Her work explores the tangible qualities of materials and the connections between people, artworks and the world around us; her installations creating dialogues with the spaces in which they are displayed. The viewer is encouraged to travel with her into an imaginary world where fact and fiction become one, everything is in flux, and anything is possible.
The Qubeka Bead Studio is a self-sufficient, owned entirely by the bead artists themselves. Currently run by three dynamic artists and businesswomen – Neliswa Skiti, Mandisa Masina and Nolababalo Kanku – it collaborates with professional fine artists to produce signature works
7. Ouroboros by Bronwyn Lace
Where: River Walk
Ouroboros is the ancient Egyptian symbol of the serpent eating its own tail. For her artwork, Lace used a donated skeleton of a rhinoceros killed some years ago during a lightning storm in the Cradle of Humankind, Gauteng. Through a process of dismantling the bones and reconfiguring them (using steel and steel cable), she has created a newly articulated skeleton – an artwork that embodies ancient symbolic meaning – eternity, infinity and rebirth which stands in stark contrast to what we are currently witnessing in relation to the rhinoceros, an animal soon to find itself on the extinction list.
The rhino has found her final resting place at Spier. At midday, the shadow cast strongly resembles the snake – and, as snakes shed their skin through sloughing, they are symbols of rebirth, transformation, immortality, and healing.
8. Untitled by Kagiso Patrick Mautloa
Where: Hotel Bar/Lounge
Mautloa’s creative practice avoids a concise definition as he employs a wide range of media and styles. Born in Ventersdorp, he is essentially an urban artist, drawing his inspiration from the street culture, the dynamics of the changing city and the people he encounters there. He lives and works in Johannesburg.
9. Night of the Mongrels by David Koloane
Where: Manor House
Koloane often uses a dog as a metaphor in his work, as in the case of this work. The artist was born in Alexandra township, Johannesburg, and was instrumental in the founding of the Bag Factory, a collection of artists’ studios in Fordsburg.
“My work can be said to reflect the socio-political landscape of South Africa both past and present,” he says. “The socio-political conditions created by the apartheid system of government have to a large extent transfixed the human condition as the axis around which my work evolves.”
10. The Mosaic Kraal by Various artists
Where: Near Wine Collection Point
The Spier Mosaic Kraal features the works of 16 contemporary South African artists including Selvin November, Lindile Magunya and Pierre Fouché.
In close consultation with each artist, the images were interpreted as mosaic artworks by apprentices of the Spier Arts Academy (which offers employment-based training in professional mosaic and ceramic in Cape Town).
Taking an average of two months to produce, each mosaic artwork was crafted by one leader and four apprentices – in total, a group of 25. They used a variety of natural and man-made materials to bring these images to life in mosaic form.
While the Kraal doesn’t have a specific theme, together the artworks illustrate the variety and vibrancy of mosaic as a medium – a contemporary African reinvention of this ancient European art form.
For more information visit www.spier.co.za