South Africa has long had a flourishing contemporary art scene. Beginning in the Apartheid era, with creative artists declaring opposition to Government policy, the newer generation of artists often share the social concerns of their forerunners, whilst others pursue a more experimental approach. We discover ten of the best places to find contemporary art in South Africa.
blank projects in Cape Town began as an artist-run exhibition space back in 2005, before moving to a larger premises in 2009 and becoming part of the Contemporary Arts Development Trust. The art on show falls under the more progressive and experimental category and aims to promote new ideas regarding aesthetics. blank projects runs several schemes to engage new participants in the artistic process – there are internship and residency schemes and corporate backing for the gallery from Pro Helvetia and the Goethe-Institut Südafrika, with exhibitions being held in various media including photography, paint and installation work. Amongst the artists on show include Misheck Masamvu, Igshaan Adams, Jared Ginsburg, and James Webb.
blank projects, 113-115 Sir Lowry Road, Woodstock, Cape Town, Africa, +27 21 462 4276
Gallery MOMO was set up in Johannesburg in 2003 by Monna Mokoena, showcasing young, up-and-coming South African artists interested in pursuing art for its own sake rather than its social context. The gallery is based in a beautiful colonial-era house that dates back to 1912. The work on display at Gallery MOMO includes pieces across all forms of media, from drawing, paint and video installations to photography. The artists represented by the gallery have achieved success across the world – the photography of Ayana V.Jackson has been exhibited in San Francisco, Tokyo, New York and Paris, and the digital prints of Mary Sibande have been showcased in Paris, Basel, Rio de Janeiro, and in Finland.
The Goodman Gallery has long been one of the key centers for contemporary art in South Africa. There is a strong focus on the social and economic context of art and its role in wider debates on African society and politics as well as the Global South connection between southern Africa and the Latin American countries. The gallery was established in 1966 by Linda Goodman and now runs exhibition spaces in Cape Town and Johannesburg, representing 40 artists from across the continent of Africa. The Goodman Gallery has long had a presence at major international art events such as Art Basel and Art Basel Miami Beach. Amongst the artists represented are the African-American, Hank Willis Davis, Egyptian Ghada Amer, and the Moroccan Mounir Fatmi, whose work tackles issues such as post-colonial politics and society.
Wits Art Museum is part of the University of the Witwatersrand and holds a celebrated collection of contemporary works by artists from South, Central and West Africa. The gallery began as a small collection in the 1950s and was developed by Professors Heather Martienssen and John Fassler from the Architecture Department of the university. With the provision of funds in the 1960s and a partnership with Standard Chartered Bank, the museum was able to build a larger collection including major archives of works by Gerard Sekoto, a leading figure in the emergence of modern art in South Africa, and Robert Hodgins. The building that houses the Wits Art Museum won international praise upon its opening, including the 2012 Visi Magazine Architecture Award.
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