The Man Behind Zeitz MOCAA.

In September, the R500-million Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (Zeitz MOCAA) opened at the V&A Waterfront’s Silo Precinct in Cape Town. We caught up with Jochen Zeitz, the founder of the museum’s extraordinary collection of contemporary African art.

Published: November 2017
Video/Photos: BMW Group, Zeitz MOCAA,

The Zeitz MOCAA is a new cultural  landmark, and a gargantuan step for Africa  – it’s the world’s largest museum devoted to contemporary art from Africa and its diaspora. The Zeitz MOCAA was conceived of as a sustainable public cultural institution that collects, preserves, researches and exhibits contemporary African art. It also preserves the architectural and industrial legacy of what was once the tallest building in South Africa.


The museum is a joint not-for-profit partnership between the V&A Waterfront and German business entrepreneur Jochen Zeitz. The Zeitz Collection forms the founding collection and core of the museum. Jochen founded the collection in 2002 and it’s one of the most representative collections of its sort in the world. The Zeitz Collection was exhibited in Switzerland, Spain, South Africa and, through an extensive presentation of art at Segera Retreat, in Kenya.


While the R500-million project involved reimagining the almost 100-year-old grain silo as 6,000m2 of exhibition space spread across 100 galleries, plus a rooftop sculpture garden, its most impressive feature is undoubtedly the cathedral-like atrium space at the centre of the museum, which has been carved from the silos’ dense structure of forty-two tubes that pack the building.


Now named the BMW Atrium, the remarkable heart of the museum makes it possible for the Zeitz MOCAA to commission and exhibit monumental interventions on a scale never before seen in a public museum in Africa. Nicholas Hlobo’s iimpundulu zonke ziyandilandela, a fantastical suspended sculpture that combines rubber inner tubing, multi-coloured ribbons, an animal skull and pink theatre lights, inaugurates the space.


As part of its long-term commitment to contemporary and modern art, BMW Group South Africa will be the official vehicle partner of the Zeitz MOCAA. BMW’s partnership with the museum also involves supplying the Zeitz MOCAA with vehicles from the innovative BMW i and iPerformance (plug-in hybrid electric vehicles) range.

The spectacular central atrium of the Zeitz MOCAA, named the BMW Atrium, provides the museum with a space in which to commission and exhibit monumental interventions on a scale never before seen in a public museum in Africa.





The Zeitz MOCAA is Africa’s largest contemporary art museum.


“I realised that the [Segera ranch] would not only be my home but could also support the vision that the Zeitz Foundation for Intercultural Ecosphere Safety had created.”


To visit Jochen’s Segera Retreat in Kenya,
call Roar Africa on +1 855 666 7626,
email them at
or visit

“For almost 50 years now, the BMW Group has initiated and engaged in over 100 cultural cooperations worldwide,” says Tim Abbott, Chief Executive Officer of BMW Group South Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa. “The company places the main focus of its long-term commitment on contemporary and modern art, classical music, and jazz as well as architecture and design. Artists like our renowned Esther Mahlangu as well as other international artists, such as Andy Warhol, Jeff Koons, Daniel Barenboim and Jonas Kaufmann, have cooperated with BMW. Besides co-initiatives, such as BMW Tate Live, the BMW Art Journey and the Opera for All concerts in Berlin, Munich and London, the company also partners with other leading museums and art fairs around the world.”


The BMW Atrium must be one of the most powerful and magical spaces ever invented in which to show art. As architecture, it is mesmerising. As a cultural space, its possibilities are boundless. It is in spaces like this that the future is forged.


We caught up with Jochen to find out how his passions for Africa, conservation, sustainability and flying.


You grew up in Germany, but have a strong association to Africa. How did this come about?


When I was 14 or 15, I saw a documentary called Serengeti Shall Not Die, which won an Oscar in 1959. It was by Bernhard Grzimek, a renowned German zoo director, zoologist, author and conservationist. Bernhard predicted the importance of conserving wild animals and the world’s wild places. It made an impression that clearly stuck with me, because when I finally visited Kenya in my mid-20s, I was hooked. Africa continued to play a strong role in my business life, too. In my past role as CEO of Puma, we spearheaded a strong focus on African soccer. Puma sponsored the jerseys of Angola, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Togo and Tunisia at the FIFA World Cup 2010 in South Africa. But I didn’t want to be just a traveller on the continent, and so the connection continued in my personal life when I bought a ranch in Kenya 10 years ago.


Tell us about Segera Retreat?


It’s a 50,000-acre ranch on the Laikipia Plateau, which sits between the Great Rift Valley and Mount Kenya. When I bought it, it was quite degraded because of poaching and overgrazing. I realised that this would not only be my home but could also support the vision that the Zeitz Foundation for Intercultural Ecosphere Safety had created. Namely, the 4Cs of conservation, community, culture and commerce. Once the ecosystem was reinstated and the wildlife had returned to the area, we opened an eight-villa eco-retreat where guests can discover a more immersive way of being in nature than the traditional safari.

Named the Centre for Performative Practice, the BMW Atrium is a dedicated platform that explores the increasing role of performance in art today.
The Centre for the Moving Image is an innovative platform in the Zeitz MOCAA where the shape of the original grain silos has been maintained. This unique architectural gesture accommodates new media installations and video projections.
The inaugural exhibition, All Things being equal..., held in the Permanent Collection Galleries at the Zeitz MOCAA includes a collection of works by Kenyan artist Cyrus Kabiru, well known for sculptures like the eyewear for the exhibition C-Stunners, which largely constituted self-portrait photographs of Kabiru wearing the “spectacles”.
All things being equal... also includes a large-scale work by Mary Sibande, In the Midst of Chaos, There is Opportunity, on loan from the artist and Gallery MOMO.
Another local artistic luminary represented in the Zeitz collection is Nandipha Mntambo, whose work addresses ongoing debates around traditional gender roles, body politics, and identity.

As the official vehicle partner of the Zeitz MOCAA, a fleet of BMW X5 models were provided for use during the museum’s opening weekend.

What drives your vision with these various initiatives?


The simple belief that if each of us do our share of good – however large or small – the world would change for the better. In my view, business has a greater role to play. It not only needs to contribute to nature by reducing negative impact, but must also affect positive impact by adopting a more social and environmental way of doing business. That’s why I started The B Team with Richard Branson. It brings together an incredible collection of global leaders and thinkers to define an agenda to make businesses more sustainable.