Over the years Bag Factory's 18 studio spaces have fostered the talents of some of South Africa's most celebrated contemporary artists. A strong affinity to the studio's ethos often sees these famous alumni returning to mentor new artists or to donate works to be sold in the annual fundraising Salon Sale. The alumni hall of fame is an impressively long roster of names that includes artists such as co-founder David Koloane, Sam Nhlengethwa, Kagiso Patrick Mautloa, Mmakgabo Helen Sebidi, Tracey Rose, Kendell Geers, Lady Skollie, Blessing Ngobeni, and Bronwyn Katz.
In addition to its esteemed alumni, the studio is admired for its dedicated support of local visual artists from disadvantaged backgrounds. They offer artist and curatorial skills development workshops, international residency programmes as well as the annual Young Womxn Studio Bursary. This is in addition to Bag Factory's two prestigious art awards; the David Koloane Award and the Cassirer Welz Award, with winners receiving a studio residency.
While the Bag Factory functions primarily as an artist studio collective, they also host regular open studio days and exhibitions that are well worth looking out for, as well as collaborative pop-up exhibitions with local galleries.
The Bag Factory's open studio days are always an intimate and friendly affair. Pick up a map and plot your way around the single-story building's maze-like mixture of large and small studios that fan out from a large central entrance hall and pop-up gallery.
An emphasis on collaboration and regular international artists residencies means there's always something different to see, with each artist free to express themselves across their studio space in print, paint, sculpture, light, sound or whatever other medium takes their fancy. Resident artists are drawn here from across the country and beyond so there's an intriguingly broad mix of themes to explore in the art on show, from feminism to the environment, consumerism to spirituality. There's also a dedication to encouraging debate and cultural dialogue between artists and audiences and a visit is not only an opportunity to discover new art but also to engage in thought-provoking conversations.
Outside of the Bag Factory's dedicated open days you can also arrange to visit by calling +27 11 834 9181.