Best of Johannesburg's Top Art Galleries

The Stevenson Gallery in Braamfontein
The Stevenson Gallery in Braamfontein | Courtesy of Stevenson Gallery

From the biggest gallery in sub-Saharan Africa to displays of the best contemporary art, the City of Gold has much to offer in terms of art and culture. Here’s a roundup of Johannesburg’s top art galleries, displaying a collection of both local and international works.

Absa Gallery

Absa, one of South Africa’s largest banks, invested in a vast collection for the ground floor of its Braamfontein offices. When the building was designed, unique works were commissioned to complement its architecture. Walter Oltmann’s 11-meter-tall (36-foot) wire sculpture of traditional African chairs towers over visitors, while Norman Catherine’s banners, woven by rural men, stretch over six storeys. This is the perfect example of how architects and artists worked together to create a fascinating building and exhibition space.

Arts on Main

Not explicitly an art gallery, Arts on Main is an inspiring creative hub – think artists’ studios, galleries, cafés and local shopping. It’s a unique and creative space situated in one of Johannesburg’s most gentrified neighbourhoods, the Maboneng Precinct. Art galleries to visit include GoetheOnMain and NIROXprojects, while iconic artists like William Kentridge and Mikhael Subotzky have studio space at Arts on Main. Apart from the art, you can expect to experience everything from African cuisine to live jazz in Maboneng, making for the perfect weekend excursion.

Standard Bank Art Gallery

The Standard Bank Gallery offers an exciting exhibition programme and runs on a non-commercial basis. One of the gallery’s most popular events is the annual Standard Bank Young Artist of the Year Award. Winners are exhibited in the gallery and the works are often of a challenging and controversial nature. William Kentridge, Jane Alexander, Pippa Skotnes and Andries Botha are some of the previous winners of the Award. Because of its amazing acoustics, the gallery also hosts regular concerts and recitals.

Johannesburg Art Gallery

The Johannesburg Art Gallery (JAG), in downtown Johannesburg, is home to one of the largest art collections in South Africa. Architecture enthusiasts will appreciate the building, designed by British architect Edward Lutyens, who is also responsible for the city’s Anglo-Boer War Memorial. As the biggest gallery in sub-Saharan Africa, it houses an impressive collection of work, ranging from 17th-century Dutch paintings to South African art from the 21st century. There are over 9000 works of art displayed in 15 halls and sculpture gardens. Picasso, Monet, JH Pierneef, Walter Battiss and Salvador Dali are among the many artists featured in the gallery.

David Krut Projects

David Krut Projects was established by publisher David Krut to exhibit art, design, fashion, and print projects. The organisation operates from different locations in the city, including Parkwood, where an exhibition space co-exists with the organisation’s bookstore and experimental print workshop. Their gallery’s other spaces are located in the Montebello Design Centre in Newlands, Cape Town, and in Chelsea, New York.

Everard Read

Everard Read, Africa’s oldest commercial art gallery, has always been associated with well-known artists. The gallery is dedicated to exhibiting works by South African artists, as well as the development of young artists’ careers. Everard Read moved to Jellicoe Avenue in Rosebank in the late 1970s, alongside CIRCA, and now forms part of the popular Keyes Art Mile.

Goodman Gallery

The gallery is illuminated at night

Goodman Gallery in Jan Smuts Avenue is one of the most well-known international contemporary art galleries in Johannesburg. Established in 1966, during Apartheid, the gallery was accessible to artists from all over South Africa and offered a fair-minded and judgement-free space. Prominent artists from all over the world have had works exhibited at Goodman Gallery and exhibitions are frequently updated.

Gallery MOMO

Gallery MOMO was established by Monna and Lee Mokoena in 2003 in a converted Parktown North home. The gallery focuses on the latest in contemporary art, and its spacious rooms are perfect for displaying its diverse collection. MOMO works closely with numerous international and local artists, including renowned photographer Roger Ballen, South African artist Sethembile Msezane, and Jamaican-American visual artist Kenrick McFarlane, to name only a few.

Stevenson Gallery

Installation from Kemang Wa Lehulere’s solo exhibition, The Knife Eats at Home

Stevenson Gallery opened in 2003 and has exhibition spaces in both Johannesburg and Cape Town. Stevenson has an international exhibition programme creating a platform for South African artists to gain international exposure. At the same time the programme allows international names to exhibit in South Africa. Works by Thomas Hirschhorn, Glenn Ligon, and Walid Raad have all been exhibited at the gallery.

Wits Art Museum

Wits Art Museum hosts an impressive collection of South African as well as West and Central African art. It’s one of Johannesburg’s top tourist attractions, as it sits alongside the Apartheid Museum and Constitution Hill. The gallery is situated in Braamfontein, a redeveloping and stimulating part of the city and a must-visit when in downtown Johannesburg.

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