Vivien Cohen

“If I were talking to privileged South Africans I’m afraid my message would be a little harsh.  I would have to break the news to them that you actually don’t need more than the first R20million.  After that, really, nothing is so important that you have to cling on to it.”  For her support for the Arts and for Red Cross Children’s Hospital, Vivien Cohen received the 2007 Inyathelo Philanthropy in the Arts Award. 


Ms Cohen’s passion is the Arts, and her philanthropic efforts are focused on making a difference in the lives of individual artists to ensure that they are in a financial position to “create”, whether it be in music, fine arts, drama, opera or dance. These are just some of the organisations that she has contributed to:

  1. Michaelis School of Art, UCT. Ms Cohen provided finance for the art materials fund at Michaelis for students who could not afford to purchase their own art materials. She provided bursary support for an art student from Zimbabwe whose parents sold their business to support him, but the finances were still inadequate. Ms Cohen also attends student exhibitions and purchases work as an encouragement to local artists

  2. School of Dance, UCT. Ms Cohen’s support for the UCT School of Dance goes back many year. She sponsored the Confluences Dance Conference in 1997, in addition to sponsoring air tickets and accommodation for delegates from abroad. In addition she paid the attendance fees for local people who could not afford them. Her support for the art of dance in South Africa extends to hosting international choreographers and dancers, having hosted choreographer/dancers Robert and Sherri North and also dancers from the National Dance company of Cuba. Further, she has facilitated the visit to Cape Town of the Nederlands Dance Theatre and sent South Africans to dance in the Netherlands.

  3. College of Music, UCT. Ms Cohen’s support for the arts extends from fine art and dance, to music. Support has included assistance for art graduates to take up scholarships abroad for postgraduate study. She has also provided significant support to the Sontonga Quartet, South Africa’s first full time group of performing classical musicians.

  4. Opera and Orchestra. Ms Cohen’s support for local music includes critical funding for both the Cape Town Opera and the Cape Philharmonic Company, her investment ranges from donating in a van for the Opera Company and bridging funds for orchestra members between the time of closing the old orchestra and establishing the new one.

“The Arts in South Africa … that is my life, that is my passion. I believe that artists - whether it’s painters or potters or actors or musicians or opera singers or jazz musicians - are really our connection with the divine. They bring us to something bigger than ourselves”.

Says Vivien Cohen