The bustling city of post-Apartheid Johannesburg is a melting pot of cultural diversity and transformation. People from all corners of the country and the continent of Africa arrive in this city to explore their artistic freedom. The result is a flourishing art scene that makes Johannesburg stand out as an international hub for African artists. Whether you like street art, want to browse galleries or are in the market to invest, all art lovers can get their fix in this city.
Art in Joburg is everywhere. The city hosts two major annual art fairs and weekly art openings from the upscale gallery neighbourhoods of Parktown and Rosebank to the artists’ studios in Maboneng and Newton. And the city is jam-packed with sensational graffiti and street art. Many young artists made their name on the street, before their talent landed them a place in a gallery.
In the areas downtown, Newtown, Jeppestown or Maboneng, concrete walls are brightened with big, creative murals and characters. Graffiti is part of hip-hop culture and was born during the late 1970s in the predominantly black and Latino boroughs of New York City. In South Africa, the trend emerged in the dying days of the apartheid era. Nowadays, people come to Joburg to see the scene and there are even tours.
Gogga and Falko are some of South Africa’s best-known graffiti artists and they have inspired new generations of artists. Mars, Myza420, Rasty, and Tyke are some of the talented artists who now make their mark on the streets and are sought after by galleries. Two major street art festivals take place in the city every year. Hip hop festival “Back to the city” in Newton has live graffiti performances by major artists and the next edition takes place on 29th April 2019. Urban art festival ‘City of Gold” attracts local and international artists to produce large scale works. This festival usually takes place in October.
Arts on Main
The Maboneng precinct merges commercial and residential property with artists’ studios and concept retail spaces. As a result, the area has blossomed into an arts mecca. In the block around, Main St and Fox St you will find street-side cafés and restaurants, hotels and trendy shops. Celebrated artist William Kentridge has his print studio here and his work is sold through David Krut Projects. Every Sunday, the Arts on Main event offers food markets, live music, street art and the opportunity to browse artists’ galleries and studios, such as Hazard gallery or the Gavin Project, which offers local talent a space to show their work.
Keyes Art Mile
Many reputable galleries exhibiting contemporary art can be found lined along Jan Smuts avenue and its side streets in Rosebank. To name a few: Joburg’s oldest gallery Everard Read and its ‘sister’ Circa on Jellicoe, which explores art, technology and architecture. Galleries with a strong name in social critique like Gallery Momo and the Goodman Gallery, which has a stellar stable of local and international artists. The Keyes Art Mile also hosts a number of smaller art galleries, design and architecture. Check out the iconic Trumpet building for design and furniture items. Every first Thursday of the month, the streets around Keyes are blocked for live music, food trucks and the galleries are open until late.
The Johannesburg Art Gallery (or JAG) is located in downtown Johannesburg. Its building, designed by Edward Lutyens, hosts the largest public art collection in sub-Sahara Africa, including works by Picasso, Rodin, Sekoto and Pierneefs. Nearby in Braamfontein, you will find a number of established galleries like Stevenson Gallery, which offers African artists international exposure; the Wits Art Museum, which hosts an important collection of (South) African art and the cutting-edge Kalashnikov gallery, which focuses on street art and graffiti as well as digital art.
Johannesburg boasts two major art fairs on the cultural calendar. The FNB Joburg Art Fair is the leading contemporary African art fair. It usually takes place in September in Sandton and attracts top-drawer curators from New York, London and Paris. In July, the Turbine Art Fair, situated in the iconic Turbine Hall in Newtown, offers a taste oflocal young emerging artists.
This article appeared originally in Inzozi Magazine, Dec 2018