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Mission Church
Graaff-Reinet, Eastern Cape

Type:Nederduitse Gereformeerde Kerk - Church


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32°15'05.24" S 24°32'09.39" E Alt: 755m

The church is now the Hester Rupert Art Museum.

Located in Church Street, this museum is housed in the fifth oldest church building in South Africa. It was built and consecrated as a Dutch Reformed Mission Church in 1821, 35 years after the founding of the village of Graaff-Reinet in 1786. It is also one of the three remaining Dutch Reformed Church buildings built on the traditional cruciform plan.

The building was saved from demolition in 1965 when it became known that a petroleum company was negotiating for its purchase to erect a filling station on the site. When Dr Anton Rupert, a son of Graaff-Reinet and Chairman of the Rembrandt Group of companies, heard about this he immediately entered into negotiations with the petroleum company which, fortunately, realised that to destroy the building would be a grave error.

The Rembrandt Group then acquired the building and Dr Rupert undertook to have it restored and converted into an art museum on condition that a sufficient number of South African artists would donate for this purpose an example of their best work. This appeal, made in personal letters, had an immediate and enthusiastic response.

On 26 July 1966 the art museum, with a total of 90 paintings and sculptures donated by 83 artists, was opened by the then State President, Mr C.R. Swart, and given in perpetual trust to the Town Council of Graaff-Reinet. In gratitude, the Council named the museum the Hester Rupert Art Museum in honour of Dr Rupert's late mother. The building was declared a national monument on 4 October 1968.

Since then, more artists have donated works to the museum and to date the collection comprises 126 works by 106 artists. Most of the collection is devoted to works produced by artists working in the 1960's who responded positively to the call to save the building for posterity. This collection should not be regarded as representative of 20th Century South African artists but rather as a small, focused collection, as which it remains highly significant.

(Hester Rupert Art Museum website, accessed 2019 05 17)

Writings about this entry

Greig, Doreen. 1971. A Guide to Architecture in South Africa. Cape Town: Howard Timmins. pg 120