Art School Africa

RESERVOIR: Independent Curatorship and New Ways of Showcasing Art

RESERVOIR: Independent Curatorship and New Ways of Showcasing Art

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In this knowledge share Shona van der Merwe and Heinrich Groenewald, from RESERVOIR, shed light on what it means to be an independent curator in South Africa. Through sharing their journeys as independent curators and elaborating on the lessons they’ve learnt along the way, they provide insight into how to access and navigate this field in a sustainable way and highlight some of the skills you may need in this career. Shona and Heinrich also elaborate on the growing trend towards exploring new ways of showcasing art and creating more independence for artists and art practitioners.


RESERVOIR is a curatorial and technical facilitation resource for artists and curators established in 2021 by Shona van der Merwe and Heinrich Groenewald. Rooted in collaboration, the duo has produced a series of exhibitions with artists and art spaces in the Cape region, South Africa. 

Heinrich Groenewald is a curator and arts professional with over seven years of experience in the commercial and institutional art sectors. Having co-ordinated over 100 exhibitions both locally and abroad, Heinrich’s skillsets span a wide scope of exhibition production. Working closely with artists to realise projects, he founded various supporting platforms that support artistic creations, including a disaster-aid arts festival in Hsinchu, Taiwan, an artists residency that hosts both local and international artists in Stellenbosch, South Africa, an arts publication exploring the intersection of creative disciplines in Cape Town, and various independently hosted exhibitions. 

Prior to co-founding RESERVOIR, Heinrich occupied the role of Head of Exhibitions at SMAC Gallery, following his position of Head Curator at GUS arts and activism centre in Stellenbosch, and director of the Komposjaart Artist Residency in Stellenbosch, South Africa. He holds an Honours in Curatorship degree from the Michaelis School of Fine Art, a PGDip in Sustainable Development from the Sustainability Institute, South Africa, and an undergrad in Fine Art from the University of Stellenbosch. 

Shona van der Merwe is a contemporary arts professional with over seven years of industry experience. Most recently, Shona occupied the role of associate director at SMAC Gallery, where her portfolios included art fairs, overseeing gallery publications, sales, liaising with artists, media relations and coordinating exhibitions. Specialising in international art fairs and biennales, she has coordinated and worked on booths at over 30 international art fairs.

During the professional opening week of the 58th Venice Biennale in 2019, Shona was a programme coordinator for the African Art in Venice Forum (AAVF), working with artists and curators such as Ibrahim Mahama and Osei Bonsu over the 3-day conference. 

In addition, Van der Merwe has worked closely in advising notable private as well as public collections, including the Fondazione Fieramilano and Missoni collections in Milan, Italy, the Perez Museum Miami, USA, the Collection Pas-Chaudoir, Belgium, the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Arkansas, USA, and the Pierre and Ann-Céline Donnersberg collection in Paris, France.

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