Sometimes the best surprises come in little packages and the same can be said for the outstanding artistic treasures that Port Elizabeth holds. Although one of the smaller major cities in South Africa, Nelson Mandela Bay houses a treasure trove of forward-thinking and expressive art that is thought to provoke and highly appealing.
Underculture Contemporary Art Gallery
This contemporary art gallery presents pop-up exhibitions five to six times a year in various locations around Port Elizabeth. With an emphasis on showcasing young, new artists and presenting art that has never been seen before, the gallery caters to a discerning and culturally aware urban audience and is committed to presenting powerful, new, relevant, and captivating exhibitions that challenge the norm. Underculture showcases only the highest in quality, artistic significance, and impact, drawing inspiration from young, intellectual, conceptual artists.
Art on Target
Art on Target is the creative expression of B.A. Moolman, a professional South African artist who has exhibited extensively across the country. Many of her paintings are included in private collections across the globe and her work reflects her personal character through numerous colour palettes that range from feminine to macabre. Art on Target serves as her studio as well as an art school where she runs various art enrichment classes. Much of her work features the beautiful Karoo landscape, a region that holds many childhood memories for Moolman.
GFI Art Gallery
Housed in a beautiful old Art Deco house in Port Elizabeth, the GFI Art Gallery is committed to promoting and encouraging the appreciation of art in the city. High-quality exhibitions by both established local artists and up-and-coming talents are featured in exhibitions that change on a regular basis. The beautiful architecture of the building and its quiet interior provide a welcome solace from the busy streets of Port Elizabeth and is especially great to explore on a rainy day. Although not always on display, the gallery also owns a superb collection of period aviation paintings by Ron Belling, South Africa’s foremost aviation artist.
GFI Art Gallery, 30 Park Dr, Central, Port Elizabeth, South Africa, +27 041 586 3973
artEC is located in a colourful and eclectic building in Port Elizabeth and houses a community art centre that was established for the advancement of the visual arts and artistic craftsmanship in the Eastern Cape. It aims to assist South African artists and encourage a public interest in the arts. artEC holds open exhibitions throughout the year, giving less established artists an opportunity to showcase their talent. Exhibitions are usually held for a period of two to three weeks and the centre also hosts regular workshops, music, and poetry evenings.
artEC, 36 Bird St, Port Elizabeth Central, Port Elizabeth, South Africa, +27 041 585 3641
The Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Art Museum
Standing as one of Port Elizabeth’s cultural treasures, the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Art Museum offers the city a dynamic selection of temporary exhibitions to educate and entertain its visitors. Besides the over 8,000 artifacts that are on display, the art museum also offers guided tours, holiday workshops, lectures, and musical entertainment as well as an art reference library. With the aim of collecting, exhibiting, and fostering the understanding and enjoyment of works of art, plan a trip to this beautiful museum if possible.
This venue is considered the ‘grand old lady’ of arts and culture in Port Elizabeth and was originally founded in the 1850s. It was declared a National Monument in 1980 and today has been completely restored along with the Little Ford Theatre that can also be found on the premises. The Athenaeum regularly holds all varieties of artist entertainment including stage productions, music, art intervention, and exhibitions. The beautiful, old building, designed by George William Smith, is in itself a piece of art and one of the few examples of classical style in the city of architecture.
For a unique and outdoor artistic experience follow Route 67, a fabulous exploration through the creative expression of South African artists. The route consists of 67 public artworks that symbolise Nelson Mandela’s 67 years of activism dedicated to the freedom of South Africa. It forms part of the greater Nelson Mandela Bay Art Journey and begins at the Campanile before moving on to the Vuyisile Mini Market Square in the centre of the city. It then continues through the staircase at St Mary’s Terrace and finally explodes in a celebration of colour, art, and heritage at the Donkin Reserve.
Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University Art Gallery
Located at the university’s Bird Street Campus, this school of art, music, and design incorporates the oldest school of visual arts in the country. It focuses on cross-disciplinarity and finding the critical balance between conceptual thinking, crafting, and professional skills, and it has produced many successful, individualistic graduates of the Fine Arts, Photography, and Graphic Design departments. Regular exhibitions are held at the gallery covering themes such as colonial oppression and slavery that transform the history of South Africa into visually provocative narratives.
Sometimes described as one of Port Elizabeth’s hidden art gems, Galerie NOKO consists of an artist residency space, an exhibition space, and art gallery that focuses on contemporary, modern, and abstract art. The ground floor houses the art gallery with a dedicated ceramic display area and regularly changing exhibitions while the upper floor contains a state-of-the-art exhibition space that is ideal for performance art, installations, conferences, and workshops. The gallery’s vision includes adding to the diverse and multicultural artistic dimension of the Eastern Cape with a focus on exhibiting local and international artists.
Wezandla Gallery and Craft Centre
While not an art gallery, strictly speaking, long-standing Wezandla is considered a good one-stop shop for a large variety of interesting and innovative craft ideas, many produced by the local and previously disadvantaged communities of Port Elizabeth. The centre works with the community to promote their products and create awareness and also have crafters who produced custom-made products on request. Take the opportunity to browse the largest selection of curios, crafts and other handmade products in Port Elizabeth at the colourful and creative Wezandla.