houses, art

5 Minutes With Curator Christopher Peter

Christopher Peter is the curator of Cape Town's Irma Stern Museum. He talks about his art-filled home, and gives us a few tips on buying and collecting art.

Greg Cox/Bureaux

Christopher Peter | House and Leisure

Reminiscent of a bygone age of gracious living, the Green Point home of museum curator Christopher Peter, curator-director of the Irma Stern Museum in Cape Town, is a glorious celebration of a cherished life. We talked to him abou art, gallery walls and personal taste. 

5 Minutes With Curator Christopher Peter 

Why is art an important element of a home?

It's absolutely vital. For some compelling reason, mysteriously, it takes precedence. Sublime furniture and objets d'art are nothing if the pictures are awful or dull. I'm very keen on the two-dimensional image.

What are your top three tips for buying and collecting art?

Go with your gut feeling, instinct and memory. It's hard to fall in love with art if it's not instinctual.

Choosing pieces can be difficult, but it helps to think about what really thrills you – make that your focal point and work around it.

It's important to be able to read the image: some small works displayed high can still present themselves to your gaze. When hanging artworks, avoid too much symmetry – it's something we're moving away from; asymmetry is the next big thing.

Christopher Peter | House and Leisure
South African paint specialist Freya Lincoln helped with various paint elements in the apartment, including finding the colours to echo those that Christopher loved on a visit to Gödöllő Palace in Hungary. The floral blind was custom-made for him by Swains Soft Furnishing in Salt River, Cape Town.


What are your three favourite artworks at home?

Very difficult to keep it to three, but I shall try… 'Painting of a Debutante in a White Ball Gown' lives above my fireplace, painted in 1919 by Scottish/English portrait painter Henry Cowan Dobson. She is a guardian angelic presence, and I feel we understand each other. It's a marriage made in heaven across time.

The large oil on canvas by Henry Symonds of the North Cape terrain: his farming background refers to my own, and this ravishing panel of greyish greens has a lofty control over everything around it. I was generously gifted this beautiful canvas panel by the artist when I owned almost nothing as a young art museum novice.

And photograph taken in East London by mid 20th-century photographer Howard Shaw. It depicts three ladies, one being my mother, posed as a princess along with another princess, and the queen, for a fundraising ball in East London in 1951. This image has inspired and informed many of my drawings and never ceases to thrill me; it's so elegant,  so tranquil, and so real to me.

Can you tell us what inspires your home's main gallery wall?

I've been busy with the ‘gallery wall’ for nearly 40 years! I continue to feel inspired, and am always on a quest to create the 'wow' factor; it's a thrill that never ends. And again, not too symmetrical.

What do you expect from 2018 in terms of art trends in the home?

I hope people will indulge in personally meaningful art, as opposed to only that which strictly has status and value, and that the silly minimalist story will be expunged from the process. An iconic image in solitary splendour is wonderful, but artists need support.

Christopher Peter | House and Leisure
Christopher bought the ruby-coloured throw for the bedroom in a small rural store, and the carpet was once a Turkish bedspread. Above the bed is a vignette of works by various South African artists as well as a painting from Christopher’s art-school days.


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