IFAS, MEMORIST, MOBILITAS and Newmark Hotels team up on Groundbreaking Artist Residency project in Cape Town

Arts and Creative Industries

IFAS and the Embassy of France in South Africa together with MEMORIST, a division of the MOBILITAS group dedicated to the preservation and valorisation of heritage, conducted a press briefing, with the French Ambassador to South Africa, Lesotho and Malawi, David Martinon and Sophie Taïeb, Director of Corporate Development for MEMORIST signing an official letter of commitment last night to solidify their plans for the creation of an artists’ residency in Cape Town.

This unique collaborative project will provide a creative haven for up to nine artists annually, drawn from talent spanning South Africa, the continent at large and France. The residency aims to serve as a platform for artistic expression and exhibition, in alignment with France’s dedication to supporting local communities, fostering cross-cultural dialogues, and nurturing creative talent.

The project has been consciously placed in the heart of the cultural centre of Cape Town as a way to ensure the artists and researchers taking part are immersed and feel connected during their residency. The Lenox, an historic building in Gardens dating back to 1929 has been selected as the location for this groundbreaking multi-use space which will comprise both artist residency and boutique hotel elements – a fitting choice, being an icon within Cape Town’s urban landscape and originally built as a hotel.

“We first looked at this property 10 years ago, and waited for it to come on the market,” says Eddie Horn, Group Facility and Property Manager at MOBILITAS.

“The overall project will be imbued with SA art, culture and craft – we envision it as a place for artistic expression and a meeting place for local people,” says Sophie Taïeb, Director of Corporate Development for MEMORIST. The organization has some background working with South African cultural institutions such as Iziko and the Nelson Mandela Museum, and this will build on the strength of its work and relationships in the country.

“This is the first such residency we’re establishing in Africa, we’re very excited about the possibility of   creating a modern, cultural experience within an historic environment,” says David Martinon, the Ambassador of France to South Africa, Lesotho and Malawi.

Throughout the years, IFAS has provided support for various types of residencies, tailored to artists’ projects. Its most significant collaboration has been with Cité Internationale des Arts, situated in the heart of Paris, where 40 residencies for South African artists have been hosted in the past two decades. This achievement is attributed to the longstanding partnerships with the French Institute in Paris, as well as SANAVA and ABSA l’Atelier.

Given that the residencies have predominantly catered to South African artists in France, IFAS is thrilled about forging a new partnership with Mobilitas for hosting residencies in South Africa.

Also announced at the briefing was news that Newmark Hotels & Reserves will be coming on board as the operator. Newmark, who had earmarked The Lenox a decade ago as a possible future site is excited about the huge prospect and potential this project poses.

Newmark, a brand that prides itself on its authenticity and bespoke hospitality experiences was drawn to this proposition, for the value it will add to its portfolio. “Our guests travel with purpose and this will be a uniquely immersive experience,” says Carl Haller, New Business Developer at Newmark. The guests will be able to interact with the artists, artists will be able to meet guests and display their art and work in the public areas.

Slated for completion in mid 2026, the reimagining of this Cape Town landmark will require a complete rebuild – whereby it will be gutted and reimagined in consultation with a heritage consultant. In its final form, an entire floor will be dedicated into an artists’ residency, divided into three modular studios – adaptable to the needs of the artists themselves. The reception and communal hotel spaces will also serve as exhibition spaces for the their work.

“This kind of project is typically gradual – it takes time to establish a brand and attract artists, but we are hopeful that we can create a successful programme here quickly. ” adds Martinon.

Given the unique concept and purpose of the space, it will no doubt take shape and develop a character all its own.

About IFAS

As the cultural arm of the Embassy of France in South Africa, IFAS operates across all artistic domains, with a dedicated emphasis on nurturing the cultural and creative industries, promoting emerging talents, prioritizing training and encouraging mobility.

Yearly, IFAS spearheads or supports over 100 projects in collaboration with partners located not only in South Africa but across the African continent, France, and Europe. This strategic approach reinforces cultural exchange and cooperation on a global scale, celebrating diversity, and nurturing cross-cultural understanding.

Since its inception in 1995, IFAS has championed a robust policy of cooperation among South Africa, France, and the wider African continent with local and international partners and has a rich history of promoting artistic residencies.

About MOBILITAS

MOBILITAS is a 100% family-owned group, born nearly 50 years ago and established in 100 countries, with a strong focus on Africa: it is, in fact, the only entity physically present in each of the 54 African countries. It is organized around 3 divisions: International Mobility, Archiving, and Preservation and Valorisation of Heritage.

About MEMORIST

MEMORIST, a division of MOBILITAS, is an interdisciplinary centre of expertise, born from the combination of high-value skills in heritage preservation, restoration, digitization, and transmission of historical, cultural, architectural, and memorial heritage. Its 250 experts deploy their skills to support states, governments, public institutions, NGOs, and museums.

Some emblematic projects include:

  • digitization of the entire archives from the League of Nations to the UN,
  • restoration of a watercolour from the IZIKO Museum in Cape Town,
  • digitization of Notre-Dame in Paris,
  • support for the Unboxing project in Cape Town

About The LENOX

The LENOX is situated in the centre of Cape Town. It is a heritage building that the MOBILITAS group is restoring and enhancing to develop a high-end hotel project that meticulously respects the historical heritage of the building. The history of THE LENOX is intricately linked to that of Cape Town. As an iconic landmark in Gardens, the neighbourhood where it’s located, it stands as one of the oldest buildings still standing. Built in 1897 as Mount Vernon, it was already intended for the hotel industry and complemented the Cardafa Hotel, dating back to the early 18th century. The financial crisis of 1929 significantly reduced the transformation projects for the hotel, which was kept as it was and to which buildings were added. A garden completed the hotel, replaced by a parking lot in 1951. The garden will reclaim its original place.

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