A Remarkable Art Farm In Limpopo

Gallerist Menno Venter and artist Jaco Roux’s fruit and nut farm in Limpopo is the unexpected home of work by some of South Africa’s most iconic artists.

Elsa Young

As far as farmhouses go, there surely can’t be many that boast two art galleries among their basic amenities.

But in the Limpopo home of Jaco Roux and Menno Venter – an artist and a gallerist – these spaces are, quite simply, essential.

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In the TV lounge, an Eames lounger is the perfect place from which to admire artworks by the likes of Pieter Hugo (far left), Jake Aikman (above the TV) and Wayne Barker (far right). ‘Along The Shiny Road’ (2013), a bronze-cast pony by Sanell Aggenbach, sits in the foreground.

Practically, the pair have amassed one of the country’s largest collections of contemporary African art, and their house has gradually evolved to display more and more of these works.

But more indulgently, Jaco says, ‘When you have the space, and no kids, why not build an art gallery just for the two of you?’ 

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Brett Murray’s ‘Portrait’ (2018) sculpture from his Hide exhibition casts an eye over the verdant garden.

Located at the end of a dirt road winding through 500 hectares of banana plantations on one side, and macadamia and pecan trees on the other, the unassuming homestead welcomes you to its door with one of Deborah Bell’s towering bronze sentinels. The extraordinary work from the artist’s most recent exhibition at Everard Read Gallery in Johannesburg looks out over a sculpture garden of other familiar pieces.

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An Edoardo Villa totem sculpture in the garden.

Furthest from its imposing form stands an Edoardo Villa totem, its topmost bauble peeking out from behind a mass of scarlet bromeliads in which its plinth is mounted.

There is Brett Murray’s evocative ‘The Party vs The People’ sculpture, featuring two mating gorillas, and just a few steps away from that is the couple’s newest acquisition, ‘and obsession,’ Menno says – Murray’s ‘Portrait’ piece from his Hide show, also held recently at Everard Read gallery.

Inside the house, Jaco and Menno’s impressive collection continues, but is brought into more dramatic focus by the space’s charcoal walls and gallery-style lighting.

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Overlooking the TV lounge in a small salon-style gallery stands a bronze bust by Mohau Modisakeng next to a photographic still from the film work he showed at the Venice Biennale in 2017.

The bust shares space with a dark work by Conrad Botes, while in an adjoining sitting room stands one of Athi Patra-Ruga’s unbelievably complex and detailed busts, glistening and glimmering with a fabulously camp sort of shine. On the walls are pictures by the likes of Pieter Hugo, Robin Rhode, Cameron Platter and Jake Aikman.

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Menno stands in the gallery towering over Ed Young's self portrait leaning against the wall. The yellow brick sculpture is by Cameron Platter and the painting on the right is by Matthew Hindley.

But this profusion of works is just a precursor to the main gallery room. Located at the end of a polished concrete patio walkway, this is where the couple listen to records, read and experiment with the curation of their most treasured art.

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In the main gallery space, Claudette Schreuders’ ‘Romance’ (2012) horse sculpture stands between ‘Prism: Dead Pieta’ (2006) and ‘Prism 30 (Maquette for Dead Laocoön)’ (2017) from Wim Botha’s Heliostat exhibition, as well as a large-scale painting by Serge Alain Nitegeka.

At one end of the room, Claudette Schreuders’ ‘Romance’ horse sculpture creates a weird, almost sci fi-like presence in its place in the foreground, standing between two major works by Wim Botha and a monumental painting by Serge Alain Nitegeka.

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On one end of the gallery space, 'Prick' (2013) by Willem Boshoff hangs above a server from Amatuli topped with a maquette by Deborah Bell.

In contrast, the earth tones of a rusted Amatuli server draw your eye upward to Willem Boshoff’s iconic ‘Prick’ piece, which is layered with hundreds of Acacia thorns.

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On the far side of the gallery (best appreciated from a Polder sofa by Hella Jongerius) is a near-complete installation of Penny Siopis’ ‘Pinky Pinky’ paintings – their eyeballs staring out from the plastic-looking impasto.

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Black walls form an ideal backdrop for the couple’s burgeoning collection of works from all over the world, such as six oil nudes by Brooklyn-based artist Adam Chuck in the main bedroom. Above the bed, the two small paintings on the right are by Hindley, the large painting is by Anton Karstel and the painting on the far end is by Walter Meyer.

Giant works by Portia Zvavahera and Matthew Hindley adjoin the installation, their scale dwarfing one of the collection’s most curious figures: a 63cm-tall sculpture of controversial artist Ed Young, with his pants pulled down and complete with tiny body hairs, leaning against the wall. The work was the only item in an empty gallery at Cash or Card, Young’s 2013 solo show at SMAC Gallery.

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An early reverse glass painting by Conrad Botes takes pride of place above the kitchen’s open hearth, in front of which stand three sculptures by MJ Lourens atop the kitchen table.

Jaco’s own landscape paintings also feature throughout the home, and his works have been exhibited at several local and international galleries over the years – most recently at Menno’s Galleria Menno in Rovinj, Croatia. 

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Menno and Jaco’s home is located on 500 hectares of farmland, which includes a thriving macadamia tree plantation.

‘This farm has been in my family for four generations, but even as a small boy, I was drawn to the visual aspect of it, the beauty of it,’ Jaco says.

‘Being an artist, I’ve come to love it even more. When I moved back here after teaching art for eight years, I had some small means to begin collecting, and then once we really started, our house grew from that – and we had to expand it to make space for it all. But our whole lives revolve around the arts, and this place, far away from everything, is where we get to keep it.’ 

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A charming 1970s era bathroom was updated with mosaic tiles.
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