Durban is the principal town of KwaZulu-Natal province, and South Africa’s third largest city. Durban is a popular destination thanks to its enviable climate and extensive beaches, but it’s also home to a number of cultural gems, to include contemporary art spaces showcasing local talent. We profile ten must-visit contemporary art galleries in Durban.
Artisan Gallery is located in a curious converted house that dates back to 1926, situated in Morningside District – the epicenter of Durban’s social scene. ‘Artisan,’ which stands for ‘Arts in South Africa Now,’ features works in contemporary fine art with a focus on eclectic handmade artwork, including jewelry, hand-painted fabrics, prints, glassware, and wood. In addition, it represents many of the country’s award-winning ceramicists such as Ann Marais, Cath Price, and Sandy Godwin. Artisan Gallery has showcased the most exquisite and representative handcrafts of South African artists for over 20 years, and has become an unmissable venue both for art collectors and art enthusiasts.
The Dodds Gallery is located in the middle of an extensive plant nursery, focused on showcasing the work of both emerging and established local South African artists. Names such as Anton Benzon, Dianne Erasmus, Kobus Kotze, Nicki Chovu Chovu, Charmaine Eastment, Tony de Freitas, and Helena Wagenaar are among the 63 artists The Dodds Gallery represents. The gallery hosts a new exhibition every six weeks, and introduces the work of renowned artists who have never had solo exhibitions before.
Mandela World Exhibition | Courtesy Elizabeth Gordon Gallery
Kznsa Gallery was founded over a century ago, and today, it showcases local, national, and international artists, committed to the promotion of contemporary art through extensive exhibitions and educational programs. Kznsa Gallery is housed in a building designed by an award-winning architect, and supports established and emerging artists. The gallery presents a wide variety of arts disciplines, from installations and performance art events to exhibitions displayed in different spaces, which are interconnected with one another: the Main gallery downstairs, with over 160 square meters, and the Mezzanine and Park galleries housed upstairs are devoted to small shows.
Elizabeth Gordon Gallery, established nearly 30 years ago, is housed in an old Edwardian building in the lively Florida Road. The gallery displays fine art of renowned and emerging South African talents, hosting exhibitions and providing advice to clients. In addition, Elizabeth Gordon Gallery is specialized in conservation framing and restoration of artworks. The gallery frequently hosts interesting new exhibitions and it represents more than 20 artists such as Barbara Siedle, Robert Domijan, Hussein Salim, John Smith, Lindy Acton or Nora Newton.
artSPACE durban gallery is located in a warehouse in an industrial area close to Durban’s city center. This contemporary art gallery offers exhibition and studio space, fostering the career of local and foreign artists from a wide range of disciplines, both emerging and established. artSPACE durban encourages networking and interaction among the artists and the public to build up a fluent dialogue within the artistic community, and to provide arts education to a wide audience. The gallery hosts three different areas: the main, middle and front room galleries, where a variety of artworks, from paintings to installations, are on display. Since 2003, when the gallery opened its doors, artSPACE durban has showcased over 150 group and solo exhibitions.
BAT Centre (‘The Bartel Arts Trust’) exhibits temporary shows by young, emerging, mainly black artists and craftspeople. This arts and culture community center overlooks the harbor in Durban’s Victoria Embankment and promotes local talent, encouraging their work, training their skills and opening markets for them, with the main aim of celebrate South Africa’s unique cultures and encourage cross-fertilization. This multi-purpose arts center is a vibrant hub for visual and performing arts and has become a popular venue for poetry and music gigs. It also hosts short courses, workshops and seminars on a continuous basis. The focus of the center is local arts, culture, crafts and entertainment that reflects the Zulu, Indian and western heritage of KwaZulu-Natal.
The African Art Center, in the center of Durban, has provided thousands of artists and craftspeople with opportunities to develop their talents for over 50 years. This center is devoted to support the creative efforts of black, youth and disadvantaged artists, living in the poorest communities and craving recognition for their work. The gallery showcases the best of traditional and contemporary South African art and craft, including handmade ceramics, paintings, works on paper, sculpture and embroidery. The African Art Center hosts training workshops and exhibitions to promote individuals and community groups and has a focus on the preservation of traditional craft skills while encouraging innovative and contemporary trends.
Durban Art Gallery is a large municipal gallery housed in the Durban City Hall that exhibits temporary shows and has a permanent collection specializing in Victorian painting and South African contemporary art. With over a century of history, this gallery is home to over 3,500 artworks, including British, French and Dutch paintings, French and Chinese ceramics, early glass vases by Lalique, bronzes by Rodin and works from many local artists and craftspeople. Its vast collection, mainly donated by historic philanthropists and arts collectors, comprehends European, Asian and African masterpieces from the 15th century to the present. The gallery also hosts a variety of activities such as lectures, classes, films and roaming art exhibitions.
Jenny Reyneke, 'Sunday Morning' | Courtesy Etchings Art Gallery
Etchings Art Gallery was established in 1993 and is devoted to supporting and promoting the work of new and well-established artists. This spacious contemporary art gallery, founded by Garnet and Wendy Cornell, an architect and an interior designer, is focused on high quality selected pieces from inventive artists. Etchings Art Gallery showcases original art and it specialized in mirrors, prints and framing. The gallery displays a wide selection of interesting artists and offers advice, assisting clients, designers and decorators.
Fat Tuesday gallery showcases traditional and new media artworks, including paintings, ceramics and photography, the latter being its main specialization. The gallery features both emerging and established artists, and serves as a platform to promote their talents. Fat Tuesday also hosts a shop with five rooms that supports local manufacturers and artists, displaying a collection of wind-up toys, journals, retro clocks and assorted ephemera. This is an original contemporary art gallery with an emphasis on photography, from traditional prints to new media images. By Cristina Villadóniga