Johannesburg has long been the heart of South Africa’s business and political world, but what some may not know, is how incredibly rich the flourishing art scene is. Brimming with extraordinarily talented and passionate artists, whose work reflects cultural diversity, natural beauty and long history. There are a growing number of exceptional, independent art galleries one can visit. These vibrant, buzzing lifestyle playgrounds, offer the perfect opportunity to brush shoulders with local artists with a glass of wine in hand!
If you plan on taking a city break, Premier Hotel Quatermain in Sandton is the perfect base for you to explore the incredibly visual delights of the Joburg art scene and our ultimate guide will ensure you get the most from your visit:
1. Everard Read
Everard Read is where you want to be if you are seeking ultimate sophistication. Established in 1913, it is Africa’s oldest commercial art gallery. This Johannesburg gallery has a meticulously curated exhibition programme that will stimulate the tastes of any art collector or enthusiast. Everard Read is at its core a gallery dedicated to the dynamic contemporary era in South Africa and over decades has housed the paintings and sculptures of South Africa’s finest modern and contemporary artists as well as Fine Art from acclaimed international artists.
2. Goodman Gallery
If you are looking for an interesting shift of perspective from the norm, Goodman has held its reputation as a pre-eminent art gallery on the African continent since 1966. Noted as a key influence in shaping contemporary South African art, bringing artists like Lisa Brice, David Goldblatt, William Kentridge, David Koloane, Sam Nhlengethwa and Sue Williamson to the world’s attention for the first time during the apartheid era. In this quiet and contemplative space, you will often find yourself completely alone with the art, left to confront the powerful message of power structures and social change. The gallery has been graced by both local and international artists alike and has a history of supporting NGOs committed to advocating for human rights.
3. CIRCA Gallery
Imagine a place where you can enjoy music, film, talks, natural history exhibits, and art. CIRCA is no ordinary art gallery, but rather an exclusive, exceptional experience that should not be missed. The building itself is an architectural landmark and has hosted a series of profound and powerful exhibitions within its subtle curved walls. After visitors take advantage of the beautiful contemporary art exhibitions and scientific installations they can enjoy beverages at the vibrant coffee shop located within.
4. WHATIFTHEWORLD Gallery
WHATIFTHEWORLD is an internationally recognised contemporary art gallery, located within the Trumpet. Their name embodies the gallery’s purpose, a host of ambitious projects that promote curiosity and thought. The gallery has a keen focus on Africa and the African diaspora. WHATIFTHEWORLD present a seamless marriage between an eclectic selection of art and design works. The exhibits are some of the brightest and best you’ll find on the African continent and feature many works that are either limited edition, unique one-offs, or for many, an eye-shopping experience (but a very enjoyable eye-shopping experience). After exploring the finest art Joburg has to offer, visitors can stop by the many cafes, and design shops or enjoy fine dining at Marble, where one can experience the best views of the city.
5. SMAC Gallery
Since its start, SMAC has focused on presenting the work of up-and-coming and mid-career South African artists, as well as already established international artists. In addition to its contemporary programme, the gallery regularly showcases large-scale historical exhibitions and projects which offer a critical re-evaluation of South African art history within a global dialogue. The minimalistic gallery is well-known for its ‘museum-quality’ exhibitions showcasing some of the most eccentric, cutting-edge art in the world. Possibly the only gallery in the city that appeals to an eclectic crowd, SMAC truly stand out from the rest.
6. Maboneng Precinct
One can’t mention the art scene without mentioning Maboneng Precinct, this colourful, youthful neighbourhood has cemented its place as a popular Joburg attraction. Dubbed one of the coolest neighbourhoods in the world, according to Forbes magazine, Maboneng is a regeneration golden child that was transformed from an industrial factory district to a lively lifestyle hub. Maboneng’s main high street is Fox Street, home to a selection of things to do. Spend your morning at Arts on Main, an artistic hub housing artist studios, including world-famous contemporary artist William Kentridge’s. Or book a walking tour to check out the local street art. Once you’ve had your fill of art, you can stop for lunch at one of the many diverse cafes or restaurants, where you can find everything from Mexican tacos to traditional Ethiopian injera platters and plenty of local flavours too. Maboneng is a major nightlife hotspot so expect to end your day off with some sunset views of the city’s skyline, drinks and DJs at one of the many rooftop bars. Or if you prefer to escape the crowds at quieter low-key spots, there are a few places where you can wind down and enjoy live jazz concerts.