Donald Hess Opens Gallery in Glen Carlou Winery

South African artists, refurbished décor featured at Hess' South African property.

Donald Hess, founder-owner of Napa Valley's The Hess Collection, is as well known for his impressive collection of contemporary artworks as he is for his wine. Hess owns one of the world's top private collections, consisting of over 1,000 paintings, sculptures and multi-media installations by some 165 artists.

Until recently, only Hess' Napa winery has had the space to exhibit a selection of the collection, but Hess is expanding to far-flung cellars worldwide. The latest space? Glen Carlou in the Paarl region of South Africa's Cape winelands. Hess bought into this property, established in 1984 by Walter and Jill Finlayson, in 1995; in 2003 he acquired the Finlayson's share and since then has embarked on a massive makeover in both vineyards and cellar.

Local nature and the environment are influential themes throughout the South African complex, including a natural vegetation garden, thatched roofs and vast views of the Paarl Valley. The first exhibition at Glen Carlou features some 30 works by South African artist, Deryck Healey and British artist, Andy Goldsworthy. Hess will rotate artists.

Donald Hess's self-professed "love affair with contemporary art" started over 30 years ago. Donald Hess's "love affair with contemporary art" as he calls it, started over 30 years ago: "There was no art in my childhood home," he remembers, "only carpets. I didn't go to a gallery until I was 30, after my best friend, a gallery owner, saw my white walls and realized she had a potential customer. I spent three days in her gallery browsing and buying." The first picture Hess purchased was a Picasso—at the time, he didn't realize its significance; today he buys only from living artists "so I can have lunch with them," he quips. These artworks are rated as one of the world's top private collections.

His wish to make art accessible to as large a number of people as possible is why these works are exhibited in public venues such as the wineries; the symbiosis between wine and art also make the wine cellar a natural forum.

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