The National Gallery of Zimbabwe By Hellman, Amanda H.
The National Gallery of Zimbabwe is an art museum in Harare dedicated to collecting, preserving, and promoting Zimbabwean visual culture. Though the collection focuses on contemporary artists from Zimbabwe, its holdings are diverse, containing traditional and contemporary African along with European Old Master paintings—a reflection of the acquisition interests of the first director.
Sir James Gordon McDonald (1867–1942), a friend and biographer of Cecil Rhodes, gifted £30,000 to found an art gallery in 1943. Ten years later in 1953 a board was established to raise funds, build the museum, and select a director. In 1956, Scotsman Frank McEwen (1907–1994) was appointed to the post of director. The Rhodes National Gallery was opened on 16 July 1957 in Salisbury, Southern Rhodesia (renamed Harare, Zimbabwe in 1980). The institution changed its name to the National Gallery of Rhodesia in 1972, one year prior to McEwen’s resignation. One of McEwan’s projects was the Rhodes National Gallery Workshop School. Artists who participated in this early workshop, such as Thomas Mukarobgwa and John and Bernard Takawira, helped define Zimbabwean modern art. After Zimbabwe gained independence in 1980 the National Gallery developed the BAT Workshop, which became the National Gallery School of Visual Art and Design in 2012.