Modern Arts Projects South Africa Gallery

WORDS Annette Klinger PHOTOS Marijke Willems PRODUCTION Klara van Wyngaard

Richmond is a small Karoo town that boasts a big art collection and an even bigger heart, as you’ll find out when you visit the Modern Art Projects South Africa Gallery on the corner of Loop and Plein streets.

The MAPSA entrance on Loop Street, Richmond.

“One of my favourite things about MAPSA is that, if you’re visiting Richmond for the first time, it’s so completely unexpected,” says Harrie Siertsema, art patron and owner of an astounding collection of contemporary works housed in a renovated old supermarket in the small Northern Cape town. Opened in 2007 by Harrie and artist-curator Abrie Fourie, the gallery acts as the beating heart of Modern Art Projects South Africa – MAPSA for short – a registered non-profit organisation that aims to provide a platform for the country’s emerging artistic talent.

The gallery’s permanent collection includes a host of the South African art world’s heavy hitters, including Willem Boshoff, Diane Victor, Claudette Schreuders and Jeremy Wafer, but it’s the young up-and-comers that most excite Harrie. “Most of the works I acquire are of students who have just finished studying,” he says. “I buy art because I like it. If an artist goes on to become famous, it’s a bonus.”

Investments of Harrie’s that have shown strong returns include works by the likes of Donna Kukama, Barbara Wildenboer and Gerhard Marx.

In addition to a steady stream of projects, including site-specific installations created in collaboration with art students, pop-up exhibitions at coffee shops and workshops in book-binding, an annual highlight for MAPSA is its artist residencies, during which creatives can zone in on their craft during the day and recharge their batteries in one of two beautifully appointed Karoo cottages at night.

Behind the beds in a MAPSA room are photo­graphic self­-portraits by Donna Kukama, My Life as a Domestic, 2004.

“With MAPSA, we create surprising encounters by installing artworks in ordinary environments like restaurants, hotel rooms, a former supermarket or in public spaces, transforming daily life into an inspiring art experience,” says Harrie. “Art should be accessible to everyone.”

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