Did you know?
Graaff-Reinet has more than 200 national monuments, the most of any town in South Africa.
The impressive collection of art in the Hester Rupert Art Museum is a delight to discover. Housed in the fifth oldest church building in South Africa, the collection features over 100 works by some of South Africa’s best-known artists, most of which were donated in the 1960s when the museum first opened.
The opening of this Karoo art museum is itself an interesting story as it began as a bid to save the Dutch Reformed Mission Church, dating from 1821, in which it is housed. In 1965, word got out that a petroleum company was planning on buying the building in order to demolish it and build a petrol station. Dr Anton Rupert, Chairman of the Rembrandt Group, negotiated to acquire the building, restore it and turn it into a museum, on condition that a sufficient number of South African artists would donate towards it nascent collection.
A number of artists responded positively, the building was saved and this art gallery in Graaff-Reinet opened in 1966 with a total of 90 paintings and sculptures donated by 83 artists. The building and its collection was then given in perpetual trust to the Town Council of Graaff-Reinet, which named the museum the Hester Rupert Art Museum in honour of Dr Rupert's mother. The building was declared a national monument in 1968.
Look out for works by Maud Sumner, which show her typical focus on interiors and the human figure, with some examples of landscapes from her later period. There are also representative works by Maggie Laubser and pieces by Irma Stern, Gregoire Boonzaier and other leading South African artists of the time.