The Ellerman Contemporary is the latest addition of art at Cape Town’s luxurious Ellerman House. It features modern art from local artists to add to the hotel’s exquisite collection of country history.
When I first walked down the little pathway that leads from the yard to the lower level, I couldn’t believe what I was looking at. “How on earth did they get this thing down here?” A massive slate head with the word “HIER” written into its temple, was staring out to sea like one of those Maoi statues on Easter Island without the long face. “Oh that wasn’t carried down here. It was built right where it is sitting,” said Alisa, the reservations manager at Ellerman House. Still, the thing was impressive.
I’ve always found that the most memorable things in life are the ones that surprise me, and Ellerman House is really no exception. Originally the early twentieth-century home of Sir John Ellerman and Lady Esther, Ellerman House has always been known for its lavish style, its grand embellishments and an intangible Cape Edwardian feel. But as of late, Nick Dreyer and his young, contemporary staff have been making improvements (including the addition of the Apple iPad to every room), the most important of which laid just beyond that big stone head.
The entrance to the Ellerman Contemporary is a modern wooden hallway, complete with wooden shelves full of things like Gilbert & George collections, sculpture books, and you guessed it, an Apple iMac. Art is all about impressions, and five feet in, I’ve already forgotten I’m at a hotel.
Down into the gallery I go, a big rectangular room with an occasional table here (a work of art itself) and a sofa there; these, I’m convinced, keep the parquet floor from looking completely bare. Framed art covers the four white walls, the track lighting above strategically placed to emphasize the paintings. “These are all South African,” Alisa says. I believe it. They look, they feel South African. The hotel has long been collecting pieces of art that convey the history of the country, including a 1910 Volschenk of undeveloped Camps Bay; but this, the Ellerman Contemporary is a modern persuasion of South African art – the vivid colors and abstract themes jumping out from the white walls.
Going back up the path to the main lawn, the rest of the Ellerman buildings become visible, the Villa to the right and the main house in front with a spa in between. Art is still very much the recurring theme, pieces hanging in every room, each color coordinated with its carpet and drapery roommates. It’s Bantry Bay meets French Riviera.
Then there’s Ellerman Villa, which more closely resembles the chic, new vibe of the Ellerman Contemporary, a luxurious compliment to the hotel. Its completely avant-garde with its glass and wood components, electronic curtains that move when you want the sun to come in, movies on demand, and a private access spa just for you one elevator ride below. Most of your time would be well-spent outside on the many verandahs of the Ellerman Villa. Day furniture and the two pools take only a portion of the enormous decks you have to watch the unbelievable sunrise or sunset, or any of the many different weather fronts that roll in from the Atlantic Ocean. On the upper two floors there are three bedrooms with naturally lit bathrooms that only seem to make the amount of space you have even bigger.
Imagine, having all this to yourself. Get the chef to throw you and your guests the private dinner party of a lifetime; enjoy fabulous menus of fresh seafoods and local cheeses with selections from the owner’s private collection of over 7,500 wines. Its no wonder Simon Cowell or the head of the Gucci group chooses this kind of place to vacate.
When all is said and done, Ellerman House really has a unique thing going. It has so much to offer in the way of experience, and with the addition of its Ellerman Contemporary art gallery, even more history and culture than ever before.