A great spot to watch a beautiful sunset in Cape Town is Ellerman House. This grand villa has 13 rooms and sits on a cliff in Bantry Bay. It’s in the perfect spot to see the sun’s last rays turn the Atlantic golden. While you’re enjoying the view, you’ll notice some eye-catching things around the gardens. There’s a bronze cheetah by the pool and a big sculpture of a woman’s face looking out at the waves. These sculptures were made by famous South African artists Dylan Lewis and Lionel Smit, and they’re just the beginning of the art you’ll find at this hotel.
What sets Ellerman House apart is its impressive art collection. Talita Swarts, the owner of Artroute, who offers custom art tours in Cape Town and Johannesburg, says this collection is really special. She’s been showing guests around the hotel’s 1,000 artworks for over a decade. What started as occasional private tours has now become a daily thing as more visitors want to see these amazing pieces.
Ellerman House is a very exclusive place. Only guests of the hotel can enter, and once you’re in, you have the run of the place. You can even raid the pantry for cakes and sweets whenever you like. The hotel is the passion project of South African financier Paul Harris, who also happens to be a big fan of South African art. He’s been collecting it for years, and the hotel is like a gallery for some of his favorite pieces. It’s one of the most impressive private art collections in South Africa, and you can only see it if you’re staying here.
Tours usually start in the fancy library, where Swarts talks about South Africa’s history and the different artistic influences it has had over the years. Some of the oldest pieces in the collection are in a hallway nearby. You’ll see sketches by Edmund Pink, oil paintings by Thomas Bowler, and a picture of Camps Bay beach and the Twelve Apostles mountain range by Jan Volshenk. The main staircase is also a gallery, with portraits by Irma Stern and Gerard Sekoto.
The lounge areas and dining rooms have important works by artists like Alexis Preller, Walter Battiss, and Jacob Pierneef. These rooms are like a history lesson about South Africa, but they also showcase contemporary artists who capture the country’s vibrant present. Outside, in the gardens, you’ll find a sculpture by Beezy Bailey that points the way to Ellerman House’s contemporary art gallery. Swarts says you could spend three hours just in the contemporary gallery because it’s full of sculptures, paintings, and mixed-media pieces by famous and up-and-coming South African artists like William Kentridge, Norman Catherine, Kimathi Mafafo, and more.
If you’re in Cape Town, you should definitely visit Zeitz MOCAA museum and the city’s art galleries. But Ellerman House is like a crash course in South African art and culture. Swarts thinks the hotel’s art collection is so good that it should be in a museum. She says, “We really rely on collections like these to keep our art safe and in South Africa.”