Home Art collection Tribute to Die Kunskamer, the gallery that changed the course of South African art – Ridge Times

Tribute to Die Kunskamer, the gallery that changed the course of South African art – Ridge Times


Created in 2014 and organized in collaboration with the Friends of Welgemeend and Strauss & Co, August Art Month always presents a thematic art exhibition presenting rare and important works of art from private collections. This year’s exhibition is titled Tribute: Erken/Verken (August 5-31) and celebrates the achievements of art market pioneers Louis and Charlotte Schachat, founders in 1971 of Cape Town’s legendary art gallery, Die Kunskamer.

Charlotte Schachat will play an active role in the commemorative exhibition Tribute: Erken/ Verken. She has agreed to loan key works of art as well as providing valuable information and archival material on Die Kunskamer and the artists it has represented for half a century. Works by leading artists such as Kenneth Bakker, JH Pierneef, Alexis Preller, Deborah Poynton and Irma Stern will be on display.

“Louis Schachat had a great influence on me and opened my eyes to many artists,” says Strauss & Co president Frank Kilbourn, who was a long-time customer of Die Kunskamer. “I have many works manipulated by Oom Louis, including that of Irma Stern Two Arabs. He taught me the importance of buying what you like, not what you think is a good investment. He also introduced me to exciting contemporary artists. The exhibition Tribute: Erken/ Verken commemorates the role played by a gallery in influencing collecting habits. It also acknowledges the immense support that Die Kunskamer has given to the local art market, not only by promoting established artists, but by taking courageous positions on little-known artists.

Louis Schachat was born into a farming family in Robertson, Western Cape, in 1926. His father was a Lithuanian Jew and his mother an Englishwoman. He attended an Afrikaans school and grew up speaking Afrikaans and Yiddish. He studied law at the University of Cape Town and practiced law for several years before, in 1971, opening Die Kunskamer with his wife, Charlotte, in Cape Town. At that time, the Schachats were already seasoned collectors.

Through Die Kunskamer, the Schachats earned a reputation as avant-garde dealers focused on South African art. Their asking price of R5,000 for a Stern caused a stir from the start. The Schachats set other benchmarks. They were the first buyers to pay over R1 million for a work by Irma Stern, and in 2010 they paid well over R10 million for a still life by Stern. When Louis Schachat died in 2013, aged 87, the Sunday Times published a full obituary: “More than anyone, he was responsible for raising the monetary value, recognition and status of the ‘South African art’.

The story of Die Kunskamer is one of focused commitment, but it is also one of open tastes and the pleasure offered by new art. “It wasn’t just about the big names in Oom Louis,” says Frank Kilbourn. “He supported artists like David Brown, Norman Catherine, William Kentridge, Malcolm Payne, Michael Pettit, Stanley Pinker and many more. It represented the curious and exploratory side of Die Kunskamer, the verkenning aspect of what he offered. I have always experienced a real sense of adventure when visiting Die Kunskamer. It was like a voyage of discovery. I got the most joy from the unusual works on display. Oom Louis did not abandon the artists he loved.

The August 2022 Art Month program includes a series of walks, public lectures and related social events. The full calendar of events is available at https://www.welgemeendart.co.za/ and https://www.straussart.co.za/

Welgemeend Art Month 2022 will open on Friday August 5 and end on Wednesday August 31.

Address: Welgemeend Homestead, 2 Welgemeend Street, Gardens, Cape Town
Requests: [email protected] / Tel: 063 910 0154 /www.welgemeendart.co.za