#ArtHeritage: Get creative at these SA art hotels

2017-08-26 18:00 - Gabi Zietsman
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Gabi Zietsman

Cape Town - When booking your accommodation, you rarely think about the décor of the place, and are generally more focused on comfortability and affordability. This Heritage Month, perhaps think again and go explore South Africa’s rich art history, which forms an integral part in our identity.

From classics to modern art, some hotels use their exclusive art collections, curated décor and local talent as a big drawing card for those looking to explore their inner artist. From the colourful town of Barrydale to the Windy City of Port Elizabeth to the glittering lights of Maboneng Precinct, South Africa has a few hotels that are home to the most stunning art around the country, be it classic paintings, sculptures or whole rooms dedicated to a theme. Take out your brushes and paint South Africa red at these local art hotels.

SEE: Blissful Barrydale

Stepping into No5 by Mantis in Port Elizabeth is a glamourous experience, welcomed by a giant metal praying mantis (so punny) at the entrance. The walls are lined with bizarre, wonderful and colourful artworks by South African artists old and modern. The boutique hotel is home to a massive private collection that extends from the walls to the various sculptures that are carefully positioned around the rooms. This private art collection, curated by the owner Adrian Gardiner, perfectly fits into the art deco furniture that provides comfort to tired guests.

Right across the street, No5’s villa has a special theme commissioned for the 2010 World Cup. Paintings of children playing football in the streets, stadiums turned into food bowls and a life-sized whistle and foosball men are the features to behold in this secluded accommodation. If you’re feeling more sociable, you can have your meal in the Jazz Room, sip on wine in the red-adorned cellar, have high-tea in the piano room or wile the night away in the risqué bar where you might have a giggle at naughty magazines.

Gabi Zietsman

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Cape Town boasts two hotels dedicated to the fine arts, though both have different approaches to the concept of ‘art hotel’. Ellerman House has a collection that includes artworks from the 1800s as well as contemporary art from big names like William Kentridge, and love to take their guests on a private tour through their galleries. They take their love for art a step further by also offering private tours by their very own curator to the best art galleries in Cape Town and the surrounding area, making for a unique experience.


At Daddy Long Legs, you can stay inside an art piece, as every room is created through a collaboration with artists and private companies like Levi’s, Sailor Jerry and Mentos. Graffiti artist Mak1One designed a 3D room with a bizarro roof sculpture that will inspire you to also adopt a pseudonym as you gaze at the Faith graffiti art outside. Another room celebrates the flash tattoo and contributions made by Norman “Sailor Jerry” Collins, even including a lightbox and tracing paper where you can live out your tattoo artist fantasies. And if you’re feeling lost in a new city, a room by Andre Voster with a handy map and a massive ‘You are here’ dot placed on the bed is just the thing to orientate yourself in Cape Town.

If you want to escape the cities, you can hit Route 62 until you get to Barrydale, where the Karoo Art Hotel will welcome anyone with art in their heart. They give local Karoo artists an opportunity to showcase their talent on the walls (even literally), and unlike other art hotels the art here are on sale to guests, apart from the owner’s private collection of course. Beyond physical art, the Karoo hotel also hosts live music shows with musicians from all over the country, as well as cater an award-winning restaurant that specialises in Karoo fine dining. They like to encourage their guests to discover ‘the art of doing nothing’, escaping their daily lives through artistic wonder.

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Up north in the busy streets of Joburg, you can travel back in time at the 12 Decades Johannesburg Art Hotel, which made its home in the up-and-coming cultural precinct of Maboneng. Each room celebrates a special period in the city’s history from 1886 - 2006, designed by South African creatives. There are rooms that focus on the gold rush of the 1800s and the ‘Randlords’ that controlled the city in early 1900s, mining rooms designed after the Bauhaus movement in the 20s and a celebration of one of the few inter-racial malls in the 70s where people of all races socialised under Apartheid. The hotel also offers a special art exchange programme, where artists can stay for an extended period in exchange for an art piece, which will be featured in the hotel’s permanent art collection open to the public [double check].

Which is your favourite art hotel? Or are there any that we missed that we should check out? Tweet us at @traveller24_sa and let us know.

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