Joburg’s art calendar is one of the city most enlivening aspects, with weekly art openings, two major art fairs, and a number of gallery neighbourhoods, including Braamfontein, Maboneng and Parkwood's so-called Art Gallery Row, as well as a district of artists’ studios in Newtown. The list of local artists whose work is shown and bought internationally continues to grow, while major events like the FNB Joburg Art Fair, attract top-drawer curators from New York, London and Paris.
Twenty years ago, the city emerged from relative apartheid isolation and is now grabbing headlines for its flourishing art scene and rise to prominence of artists, curators and gallerists. In 2014 the Wall Street Journal singled out Joburg as one the world’s four emerging art cities, while more recently prominent arts publisher Phaidon’s Art Cities of the Future selected the city as one of 12 that will shake up the art world in the 21st century.
We asked some prominent art world figures to shed light on Joburg’s rising status as a cultural capital.
‘One does not necessarily want to say that it is because of the buying power in Johannesburg, but that definitely forms part of the global picture. Think back to when Joburg started as a mining city and the rush it created. That rush is still evident, and artists thrive on it.’– Monna Mokoena, Gallery MOMO
‘Joburg is a rare case of a city that was built on a mine. It is not coastal, not situated on a waterway or mountainous, and so people have discovered that when they need relief, inspiration or enlightenment they can turn to art. The city experiences phases of reinvention, bringing about opportunities for artists to contribute to the metamorphosis of public space.’ – Liza Essers, Goodman Gallery
‘Since the 1950s, Joburg has nurtured and developed cultural and community-based artist centres and, more recently, Artists Proof Studios in Newtown and the Bag Factory in Fordsburg. The Johannesburg Art Gallery was the first South African institution to collect the work of black artists. The development and rejuvenation of city precincts have also contributed profoundly to its title of “art city”.’ – Ruarc Peffers, Strauss & Co. Art Auctioneers
‘The city has a vibrant energy that encourages individuals to express themselves through the visual and other arts. As the major commercial city of Africa it has numerous galleries, art institutions and patrons. And, of course, it has one of the world’s most famous artists as its permanent resident: William Kentridge.’ – David Krut, David Krut Projects
‘For me its about a new energy, a new movement and a fresh outlook but at the same time not negating the past but systematically and gradually unpacking it – poignantly and with present relevance, and with a concerted, focused understanding of its rich and complex history. This renders Joburg and its artists with an infinite and diverse palette and archive to draw from and manifest the new.’ – M.J Turpin, Director Kalashnikovv Gallery