city, houses

An Artist's Eye

Text Sarah Buitendach Styling Leigh Toselli Photographs Patrick Toselli Not surprisingly, Roelof van Wyk’s favourite spot in his Illovo, Johannesburg, penthouse apartment is the middle of his Tonic-designed sea-green leather couch. Sure it’s sink-in-and-collapse comfortable, but it also offers the best vantage point in the entire flat. Gaze through any one of the picture-frame windows in front of you and you’ll be mesmerised by the view: the leafy tops of the tree-lined northern suburbs in the foreground and the Jozi skyline protruding behind it. It’s like a gorgeous panoramic photo; fitting because Roelof happens to be not only a prolific collector of South African art but also a passionate photographer. That is, when he’s not being kept busy as creative head of CBD-based marketing company, Trigger. Roelof’s photography is being taken seriously on the art scene: his Young Afrikaner series was selected as a finalist in this year’s Spier Contemporary competition, currently on display at Cape Town’s City Hall. Taking both his inspiring worlds of work and play into account, Roelof – who is a qualified architect – has fashioned a home for himself that is filled with the things he loves: an exceptional collection of works by contemporary local and international artists, designer furniture pieces and multitudinous books and magazines piled high like art installations across the parquet floor. Walk into Roelof’s space – the top floor of an Art-Deco block built in 1937 by acclaimed South African architect Harold Le Roith – and you’re immediately aware of his zeal for art forms of all kinds. One wall of the narrow entrance passage, which leads into the open-plan kitchen and living area, has been given a lick of chalkboard paint. It’s plastered with messages from friends, shopping lists, newspaper snippets and works by photographer Jo Ractliffe and artist Mark Kannemeyer (or his alias, Lorcan White, to be exact). Roelof has followed the likes of Mark and Anton Kannemeyer and Conrad Botes since they began their careers. This is entirely evident when you note how many of these renowned local artists’ works are dotted throughout the home. As Roelof observes, ‘Only about 10 per cent of the art I own is on display – the rest of it is in storage because I just don’t have the space.’ Yet the house is still teeming with paintings, sculptures and photographs, with many of the works leaning against walls – a style of displaying them that Roelof prefers. ‘I like flexibility,’ he explains. ‘Doing this allows me to change things around often.’ Roelof is not afraid of change. When he moved into the moderately small apartment four years ago it was a maze of walls and small rooms. He immediately removed these, creating a series of open, interleading spaces, including a slick main bathroom with a glass wall through which light streams from other parts of the flat. The clean-lined white island and custom-designed taps of his understated kitchen are offset by a vibrant mural that covers an entire wall. This was created by Roelof’s friend Waddy Jones of music group Die Antwoord. The wall may be eye-catching, but it’s not exempt from Roelof’s propensity for trying new things – he redoes it every six months or so. The adjoining lounge and living areas are equally vibrant – they’re essentially canvases filled with, among other artworks, sculptures by Brett Kebble Art Awards-winning artist Phillip Rikhotso and poignant photographic pieces by Zanele Muholi. These are juxtaposed with key furniture items by Gregor Jenkin (including one of the first tables he created) and famed international designer Harry Bertoia. ‘All open and light, it’s like living in a New York loft – but it’s also so African,’ Roelof says, pointing to the Gautrain emergency tunnel structure that has sprung up nearby, which he enjoys for its unsophisticated and unintentional good looks. As with the art he collects, photos he shoots and the eclectic home he’s established, Roelof clearly sees beauty in all its incarnations.


  • The building I most admire is Circa in Johannesburg.
  • My favourite local designers are Stiaan Louw and Dokter and Misses – and I love Co-Op in Braamfontein.
  • My advice to anyone wanting to start an art collection is buy what you love and can afford. If you are lucky the work might be worth a lot in the future, but you don’t know that, so go for what you love.
  • There are many artworks I regret not buying, but I know I should have bought an original Cecil Skotnes woodcut (the actual piece of wood) or a Braam Kruger painting.
  • My ideal way to spend a weekend is breakfast at 44 Stanley’s Salvation Café (my favourite restaurant), followed by browsing at Art On Paper and coffee at Bean There – by which time it’s nearly lunch. Then I head to the other side of the centre for lunch at il Giardino Degli Ulivi. I also enjoy breakfast at Canteen at Arts on Main if there’s an art opening there.
  • My dream holiday destination is Brazil, or my beach house in Oyster Bay.
  • My favourite splurge item is shoes, which I buy when I’m overseas.
  • I love to hate Cape Town.
This article was originally published in the April 2010 issue of House and Leisure.