Locating a new art and design centre next door to Circa Gallery in Rosebank was always going to be a challenging endeavour. This distinctive architectural statement is hard to compete with, visually speaking. Yet Anton Taljaard was attracted to this possibility for the same reason it might prove difficult.

Anton Taljaard
Anton Taljaard
Image: Aubrey Jonsson @ OneLeague

In his desire to establish the Keyes Art Mile, an art, design, and residential
precinct along this titular street in Rosebank, Taljaard was keen to exploit this
landmark edifice he had been drawn to and admired. He believes it has not only become the most dominant node in the art gallery strip along Jan Smuts Avenue, but it has set the bar for architecture in the city.

“It created a greater awareness of architectural design,” says Taljaard, whose
reverence for Pierre Swanepoel’s design encouraged him to turn to this architect, and StudioMAS, in creating Trumpet. Securing Swanepoel as the architect ensured that Taljaard’s Trumpet would “grow in sympathy to Circa rather than compete with it”, says the developer.

He has succeeded — Trumpet reads as  a natural extension to Circa. A green wall of plants between the two buildings stitches the two together, as does the bridge that connects them. Taljaard is cultivating a number of connecting “bridges” through his Trumpet development. One such bridge is between Cape Town art and design and Joburg consumers — many of the art and design tenants are Cape Town based.

Most notably, however, is the “bridge” between art and design, with the tenants
representing each or both of these creative spheres. Tenants include the
Smac Gallery; Missibaba, the prized leather handbag and accessory label; and
Anatomy Design, the interior specialist. This relationship between art and 
design is perhaps best encapsulated in the local design specialists Southern 
Guild and Whatiftheworld Gallery sharing a space in the centre.

“We went looking for the tenants that are here. A lot of these choices
were determined by personal relationships. We have a strong presence of
contemporary art with Smac. From there flows Cassina, which offers the
modern masters of design; and Kartell, which is a bit more fun. Flos are lighting
specialists, and Anatomy brings a South African flair to design,” Taljaard says.

The art and design dialogue plays out in all facets of the building; in particular,
it drove Swanepoel’s design, as Trumpet was initially conceived of as a museum like development to house and display Taljaard’s extensive art collection. Since the age of 14, when he clapped eyes on a compelling landscape painting, he has been collecting art. “I was looking for a way to take my art collection to the next level. I didn’t want to do something that was
going to be overtly public,” he says.

This influenced the design of the building, especially the striking outer shell
frontage on Keyes Avenue that consists of composite panels that keep light out
of the building — a requirement for the display of art. This outer shell lends
a camouflage quality — it takes on the hues of the sky and environment. It is
also the most striking feature of Trumpet, and echoes the way in which Circa is
defined by its unusual exterior.

I love the white
box gallery
space where
you can show
off art, but that
is not where it
should stay

“It is different to Circa but continues its DNA,” Taljaard says. Once Taljaard settled on the idea to create a commercial development that could sustain a noncommercial art gallery, the building evolved, and museum space fell away. This was mostly motivated by Taljaard’s reticence to make his art collection obviously public. Yet the desire for a museum structure remains. 

Adjacent to Circa, the groundwork is being laid for the next development in the Keyes Art Mile, which will accommodate a pseudo art-museum structure, along with smaller commercial galleries and shops. A residential development is also in the offing. “We want to help grow this neighbourhood into one that is active and alive, without changing its character,” Taljaard says.

Trumpet won’t boast a museum space, but a vaulted atrium in the entrance will
function as a public space for art exhibitions, where performance, video art, and hanging works can be accommodated. The glass walls between the galleries and shops, which generate an almost seamless divide between the entities, work at establishing the interior as one large museum-like space, where different objects are displayed, and the boundaries between art and design will seem very blurred.

Artworks will be dotted through out the  building, including at Mesh, a members club on the first floor where design and business figures can mingle and form profitable alliances.

A public bar attached to the club boasts a wall design by Skullboy, but more
artworks are likely to find their way into this space. This is in line with the
philosophy that has shaped Taljaard’s pursuit as an art collector: “... to live with
the art. I love the white box gallery space where you can show it off, but that is
not where it should stay.”

In this way Trumpet will function as an expression of his desire to build a bridge between art and living or lifestyle pursuits, which also includes fine dining. The new David Higgs restaurant on the top floor of Trumpet, called Marble, appears to be a rarified place with its classical frescoes and alcoves. However, in line with the ethos that seems to run throughout this development, it is not all style without substance.

“We wanted to offer people something that they would really enjoy, such as
good meat cooked over wood. This isn’t fine and delicate cuisine; it is premium
food cooked at the highest level that is enjoyable,” Taljaard says.

Taljaard seems to relish in almost every aspect of his Trumpet development,
from the Naked Ape-designed outfits for the bar staff at Mesh to the acoustic
panelling from Sweden at Marble, to the mini public square where Circa and
Trumpet meet.

This project has been in development for six years, but has been incubating in his head for much longer. Now that it has come to life, he clearly wants to share it with everyone, and his enthusiasm and passion is infectious.

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