History of the Woermannhaus Art Gallery

The Woermannhaus Art Gallery is the basis and the home of the Swakopmunder Arts Association. The Art Gallery belongs to and is run by the Swakopmunder Arts Association, a non-profit organisation. The members of the committee work in the field of music, theatre, literature and fine art on a voluntary basis, all and alone for the love of art, and true to the aims and objectives of the Association.

Shortly after the Second World War, exactly 1947, the Swakopmunder Arts Association was founded as an off-spring of the South African Arts Association. At that time Arts Associations were founded all over the country, the first one in Windhoek, but the Swakopmunder Arts Association is the only one active and very much alive, thanks to the hard work and input of its committee members.

The Swakopmunder Arts Association started by organising concerts for visiting musicians from the war-torn Germany. Shortly thereafter readings, theatre plays and small exhibitions were held in the reading room of the Swakopmund Museum.

The Arts Association grew in strength and with it the collection of valuable paintings. A proper gallery was needed.

In the early 80s the Swakopmunder Arts Association had the good fortune to move into the upper rooms of the Woermannhaus, handed over from the SWA/Namibia Administration to the Municipality of Swakopmund on the condition, that its premises will be used for cultural purposes. So, in the bottom part the adult and children libraries found their homes and upstairs the Swakopmunder Arts Association could stretch her wings and start building a fine collection of Namibian art. Thanks to Irmela Erlank and a dedicated team the dream of an art gallery finally became a reality.

Here is a short background to the diverse Namibian art in our collection:

In the early 20th century young European painters came to live in our country and discovered its beauty. They were inspired to capture the harsh landscape in a realistic, often romantic style. At that time wildlife and landscape painting became a tradition amongst these artists.

Up to the 1950s and 60s Namibian art exhibitions were dominated by that style.

In the 1970s the visual art slowly moved away from the idyllic to the more abstract and young Namibian artists emerged and received first public acclaim.

In the 1980s African modes of expression caused surprise on art exhibitions and signalled the change in the cultural climate of the country.

Our oldest treasure, a pastel by the Swedish painter Axel Eriksson, dates back to the year 1917, our latest acquisition, a graphic work by David Amukoto, was created in 2007.