If there was one good thing about Vindaba, the wine tourism exhibition which ran alongside CapeWine 2012, it was the discovery of the innovative new KWV Sensorium at its Head Office in Paarl, which pairs highlights of the KWV Art Collection with KWV wines, and which has brought the art collection under one roof for the first time.
The creative idea came from a group think tank, curator Elsa Hoogenhout said, and has given the historic KWV Head Office interior a new and modern feel as one enters the building. The Sensorium is believed to be the first wine and art pairing in the world. The creativity is evident before one even enters the Sensorium, with a Reception bench made from wooden staves to which old office furniture has been affixed, being functional seating as well as expressing the differentness of the rejuvenated KWV, one of the leading and oldest (94 years) wine producers of the country, having been one of the top performers, with Nederburg, at the Veritas Awards on Saturday evening. Using the services of two architecture firms, Albertyn Viljoen from Paarl, and Mashabane Rose from Johannesburg, the rectangular space has a central glass-encased KWV wine display and food preparation centre, with special lamps made from KWV branded crystal decanters.
Each of the 28 featured artworks out of the approximately hundred in the KWV Art Collection, which has been built up over the past sixty years, has been uniquely paired with a KWV wine, based on what the artwork represents or its colouring, a team effort between Elsa and her wine colleagues. At any given time, four of the paired artworks can be experienced by tasting the matching wines, and the four paintings and pairings will be rotated, so that one can study new paintings and taste new KWV wines each time one visits the Sensorium. I was lucky to have Elsa telling me about each painting, and each is well described where it hangs, with five words that are uniquely descriptive of the artwork as well as of the KWV wine, not using traditional wine-speak. The catalogue for the exhibition is informative, and contains each artwork, the wine pairing, as well as the QR code so that one can obtain more information about the wine from the KWV Sensorium website. The paintings are hung in sections in the Sensorium, depending on their wine pairings, being white wines, red wines, and dessert wines.
The first artwork is entitled ‘The Funeral’ (of poet DJ Opperman), and is by Marjorie Wallace, showing his family in one group and his friends in another. His family did not approve of his friends. Interesting is the seemingly contradictory pairing of the sad theme of the painting with the KWV Cathedral Cellar Cap Classique, and Elsa explained it as representing the rebellious and effervescent character of the poet. The words associated with the wine and the artwork are: rebellion, reminiscent, icy rain, wet grass, effervescence.
This was followed by ‘Boland Bride‘ by Christo Coetzee, one of his last works, which is paired with the KWV The Mentors Viognier. Viewers of the artwork either love or hate it, Elsa said, and the reaction to Viognier is similar, she said. Yet both the artwork and the wine are complex, being layered. The five descriptive words for the wine and the artwork are: bittersweet, complex, floral, masculine, and Miss Havisham ( a character from Charles Dickens’ ‘Great Expectations’).
A work which was commissioned by the KWV is by Piet van Heerden and entitled ‘Boland Valley‘, painted from Paarl Mountain, and is an iconic painting of Paarl, and was therefore paired with the iconic KWV Roodeberg. The words used to describe the painting and the wine are the following: legendary, rockface, vista, sunset, Kodak moment!
The pièce de résistance is the massive Irma Stern ‘Harvest’ painting, probably the largest surviving Stern artwork in South Africa, which was paired with KWV Red Muscadel, its colour matching the different shades of red and orange fruits in the painting. The words describing the two masterpieces are the following: joyful, abundant, Garden of Eden, exotic, parable.
Other artists in the KWV Art Collection are JH Pierneef, David Botha, Gregoire Boonzaier, Carl Buchner, Frans Claerhout, Herbert Coetzee, Tinus de Jongh, Llewellyn Davies, Pranas Domsaitis, Elly Holm, Amos Langdown, Francois Krige, Erik Laubscher, Hugo Naudé, Alexander Rose-Innes, Edward Roworth, and Maurice van Essche.
At Laborie, a KWV property a little further down, off Main Road, wine is made, with Harvest Restaurant and guest accommodation too, a collection of works by Cecil Skotnes can be viewed. The KWV commissioned Skotness to produce a number of works, his ‘Epic of Gilgamesh‘ being the best known of these, consisting of 18 hand-carved wood panels in a stinkwood and yellowwood frame, depicting the origin of wine.
The KWV Sensorium is a unique showcase of South African wine history, with old bottles of KWV wines, brandy, and even Eau-de-Cologne it once produced, uniquely paired with works of art by some of South Africa’s finest artists.
KWV Sensorium, 57 Main Street, Paarl. R40 per person. Tel (021) 807-3147 www.kwvsensorium.com Twitter: @KWVSensorium Monday – Friday, 9h00 – 16h30, Saturday 9h00 – 14h00.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage