Da Vinci Exhibition Enhanced by Setting

In association with World Design Capital, Da Vinci: The Genius, inspired by the artist’s inventive design ideas, is at the V&A Waterfront until February 9.   

Douglas here – back for my second blog posting on the beautifully showcased gallery that is mostly composed of detailed mini creations designed, but never constructed, by the famous Renaissance artist.  The work is displayed at the Chavonnes Battery Museum, and it’s magnificent.  The Da Vinci exhibition is great, too.  
 
Some of the models are cool (and fun to play with), but they are not the only reason you should attend.  Instead, make your way down to the Waterfront and into the basement of the Chavonnes Battery Museum, to see just that – the basement.   Much of the 18th century battery was rediscovered and excavated during the 1990 construction of the Clock Town Precinct and has since been turned into a museum.
 
The models have been nicely displayed around the crumbling walls and canons that make up what is left of the battery that once protected the Castle of Good Hope and Cape Peninsula.  
 
The R140 admission price seems better value for money if you combine the exhibition itself and the museum experience - its then worth the trip. Together (and add some well placed dim lighting and some era-specific, eerie, church-sounding music for added ambience) and an aesthetically pleasing exhibit is created – one that evoked a somber, but not melancholy, feeling inside me.  
 
I enjoyed the mini replicas, but I loved the atmosphere.
 
The museum’s darkest corner is devoted to Da Vinci’s two most famous works.  Mona Lisa is displayed in a variety of large, small, dull, and colorful ways.  Check out the unique look – made possible by the use of a 240 million mega-pixel camera – at what has made the Mona Lisa one of the world’s most studied and speculated artworks.  There's also an impressive video that adds interesting insights to Da Vinci's The Last Supper.
 
Of course, I also feel compelled to add in my eco-friendly side comments.  First, a tip-of-the-hat to those who preserved the battery and built around it.  We should do more of that.  Not only because it minimizes the production and use of unnecessary materials, but also because it’s really cool looking when done right.  Second, one of the art pieces was a model of a city Da Vinci envisioned.  With its compact structure and stacking of buildings, I was reminded of the “ecocity” idea – much different from the faux “ecocities” currently being built – described by Richard Register in his book by the same name.  The city idea eliminated sprawl and conserved energy by making everything closer and easily accessible.  
 
WHERE: Da Vinci: The Genius, Chavonnes Battery Museum, The Clock Tower Precinct, V&A Waterfront, Cape Town.
INFO & BOOKING: Visit
WHEN: until 9 February 2014.
Open Daily (Mondays – Sundays) 09:00 – 21:00*
23 January 2014 09:00 – 19:00* 
23 January 2014: Da Vinci – After Dark 19:00 – 21:00
   
*Last admission 90 minutes prior to closing