PHOTOS Jan Ras PRODUCTION Sumien Brink WORDS Debbie Loots
A dilapidated warehouse in Cape Town’s Church Street has been turned into a gorgeous art gallery, Smith Studio – which opened its doors with a solo exhibition by Kurt Pio.
It is a dream come true for two Mother City friends and business partners: Not only have Candace Marshall-Smith and Amy Ellenbogen turned their love for art into a business by launching their very own art gallery, Smith Studio, but they have also given a 250-year-old double-storey warehouse a fabulous new lease on life.
Candace is the first to admit it was quite a journey to get where they are. A photographer, avid art collector and business whizz with an accounting back-ground, she knew the old pakhuis in Cape Town’s Church Street would be in need of very special attention. Not to mention vision.
After buying it on auction with her husband William and business partner Andrew Bonamour, Candace immediately called her friend Amy, an art history graduate fresh from a curating stint in Edinburgh, to partner with her as the gallery’s curator. So Smith Studio was born, the name referring to Candace’s surname as well as to a crafter, a maker of things. Smith is also a common surname, easily attachable to other names like exhibitions and artists’ names without stealing the show.
Next, they called in the experts to help reimagine their long, narrow space. And who else but heritage specialists Gawie and Gwen Fagan would ensure every little bit of the building’s history is honoured and restored to its former glory? Architects Reanne Urbain and Alex McGee gave it all a fresh and contemporary polish-up.
“We wanted the best of both worlds,” says Candace: “amazing art by new and established local artists as well as a beautiful destination gallery.”
Something Amy is especially mad about is the restored glass-front doorway, which is large enough to let in not only a car but also the First Thursdays art-loving crowd once a month.
“I look forward to all the possibilities the door presents,” says Amy: “Imagine large functions or exhibition openings stretching out of the door and onto the cobbled street.”
When Amy’s not dreaming of Smith Studio’s future ventures, her scouting eye is on the lookout for new talent. Once she’s set her sights on an artist, it’s a matter of guidance and support before they work towards a show together.
“Many artists have a background in illustration and want to move forward, try different mediums, change certain styles or simply grow. That’s where I come in,” says Amy.
And the upstairs area with its lovely light and sash windows? “It’s offices now, but our dream is that it will eventually become an exhibition space,” says Candace.
At the rate this duo is making dreams come true, it’s just a matter of time.