CultureIssue 3 2021

Ask the Art Concierge

As the Art Concierge of The Royal Portfolio’s The Silo Hotel in Cape Town, Irene Boaventura has unique access to their collection of hundreds of contemporary African artworks that grace the rooms, restaurants, hallways and lobby. Up close with art every day, she let us know which pieces have become her favourites. 

Irene Boaventura in front of an artwork by one of her favourite artists, Thania Petersen
Irene Boaventura in front of an artwork by one of her favourite artists, Thania Petersen

The Silo Hotel houses the works of some of Africa’s most talented, emerging, and eminent contemporary artists.

– Irene Boaventura 

Irene Boaventura made up her current job title. Working at The Silo Hotel, she was surrounded by an extensive and vibrant collection of art acquired by hotelier Liz Biden. And located above the Zeitz MOCAA (Museum of Contemporary Art Africa), she’d meet many art- and design-minded guests. As the Art Concierge, she hosts museum and art tours around the city, introduces guests to local artists during studio visits and manages gallery sales from the hotel’s dedicated art gallery, The Vault. 

What is The Silo Hotel’s relationship with art? 

Meticulously selected by the owner of The Royal Portfolio and an avid art enthusiast, Liz Biden, The Silo Hotel houses the works of some of Africa’s most talented, emerging, and eminent contemporary artists. The Silo Hotel is a celebration of art, style, architecture and design; a tribute to timeless glamour and contemporary luxury offering the highest levels of personalised service synonymous with The Royal Portfolio. We also have our own private gallery, The Vault, which is an integral part of the art ecosystem in Cape Town.

Is there a theme that runs throughout the art collection in the hotel? 

The art collection at the Silo is purely focused on contemporary art from Africa. In the five years since the hotel opened, we have grown the collection to about 400 pieces of art. How could one market possibly encompass 54 countries, 1.2 billion people, and countless aesthetic traditions and yet find a defining theme? It’s simply impossible, which makes it so exciting! This excitement has led Liz Biden to collect what she loves and offered her the opportunity of variety. 

Artwork next to the bed in a luxury suite of The Silo Hotel
Artwork next to the bed in a luxury suite of The Silo Hotel
The Silo Hotel is above the Zeitz MOCAA which houses the largest collect of contemporary African art on the continent. Image by Iwan Baan
The Silo Hotel is above the Zeitz MOCAA which houses the largest collect of contemporary African art on the continent. Image by Iwan Baan
The Silo Hotel, V & A Waterfront, Cape Town, South Africa. Client: The Royal Portfolio. Photographer: Mark Williams
The Silo Hotel, V & A Waterfront, Cape Town, South Africa. Client: The Royal Portfolio. Photographer: Mark Williams

How could one market possibly encompass 54 countries, 1.2 billion people, and countless aesthetic traditions?

– Irene Boaventura

What kind of art are you drawn to personally? 

Well, this question has two answers, firstly I am a young art collector, so I instinctively buy limited editioned prints, lithography, photography and paintings from graduate students; this is just a strategic way of collecting. However, my favourite medium is painting; it just carries so much depth, emotion and texture and I love that no painting is the same – it’s that unique. 

Please give us a tour: what are your favourite pieces in the hotel and why?  

How do I choose? I love most of the art at The Silo hotel. There are artworks that I love more than others simply because I have developed a relationship with the artist as well. A good example is one of my favourite artists, Thania Petersen, whose artwork forms part of our collection. I had the pleasure of spending an afternoon in her studio, learning about her practice over Rooibos iced tea, looking at archives and gaining exclusive insight into her new projects. This kind of unique experience definitely built my appreciation for her work.   

When the light from the Thomas Heatherwick-designed diamond windows hits the glitter in the artwork, the room becomes a kaleidoscope of colours.

– Irene Boaventura

Cyrus Kabiru 'Macho Nne 08 (Nyatiti)' 2014
Cyrus Kabiru 'Macho Nne 08 (Nyatiti)' 2014

Cyrus Kabiru 

We have his C-Stunner series on the landing of each floor. I have a standing joke with Cyrus: he asks me when I am coming to visit him in Nairobi and I reply, “I see you every single day at the hotel, so you come visit us rather.”

Rosie Mudge

Hers is the prettiest artwork in the hotel when the light from the Thomas Heatherwick-designed diamond windows hits the glitter in the artwork and the room becomes a kaleidoscope of colours.

Rosie Mudge 'Closer I'
Rosie Mudge 'Closer I'
Musa N. Nxumalo 'Lit' from Anthology of Youth 2016
Musa N. Nxumalo 'Lit' from Anthology of Youth 2016

Musa N. Nxumalo

He is an amazing photographer. His contemporary photography explores youth culture and identity in South Africa. Primarily shooting in black and white, Musa’s practice evokes the work of American photographers Larry Clark and Nan Goldin. Musa is both the voyeur and participant. His photographs reflect elements of self-portraiture, and a singular perspective of a world in which the artist is personally immersed.

Thania Petersen

Thania Petersen is a multi-disciplinary artist whose discourses focus on photographic ‘self-portraits’, installations, and multisensory-based performance. A direct descendant of Tuan Guru (an Indonesian Prince in the late 1700s brought to South Africa by the Dutch as a political exile), Petersen explores the universal themes of personal and historical identities by reconstructing herself in various guises, often invoking what remains of our ancestors’ rituals and history in our lives today.

Thania Petersen 'Saman' 2016
Thania Petersen 'Saman' 2016

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